LONDON — Parents and nannies bustling their children to school were enjoying an unseasonably sunny morning in the Parsons Green neighborhood on Friday when they were suddenly swamped by helicopters, police cars and ambulances.
And amid the hysteria and stampede of commuters dashing for safety, some found themselves separated from young loved ones.
“Everyone was doing the 100-meter sprint at the same time. The girl I sat next to fell to the floor — she got trampled on and flattened," Luke Walmsley, 33, a video editor, told NBC News at the scene. "There were lots of kids and lots of nannies and moms trying to work out where their kids were."
Walmsley was a few subway cars away, but he and other witnesses described seeing a flash that caused minor burns to some passengers.
Many Londoners have refused to be cowed — often invoking the World War II "spirit of the Blitz" and their stoic resolve in the face of decades of attacks by the IRA.
This "stiff upper lip" mentality was on show Friday, with many locals and passersby taking pictures on their iPhones or calmly waiting in their bathrobes after emerging from their Victorian and Georgian houses to see what all the commotion was about.
Despite the cavalry of police and journalists, many continued to walk their dogs, while others decided it was time for a pint in the local pub, the Duke on the Green, which of course, this being Britain, was already open.
Alexander Smith is a senior reporter for NBC News Digital based in London.