One of my favourite sayings is ‘’Yesterday is history, tomorrow’s a mystery but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.’’ I love this saying as it really focuses my mind on the here and now.
The ancient Stoics called it somewhat differently with their version ‘Memento Mori’, which basically means ‘’you could leave life right now’’. Not at all in a negative way, but as a reminder that life is finite, so take advantage of every moment as you never know what awaits around the corner.
And as we speed toward 2020, not one of us knows what lies in store in the coming days. So, I wanted to take this opportunity to allow myself an indulgent moment to cast my mind back over the last 12 months.
I’ve met some incredible people on my travels with Your London Legacy from all walks of life, many cultures and background, and ages, and I’m incredibly grateful to each of them for sharing their valuable time with me.
The one thing that draws them all together, is their innate inspirational quality to contribute, to add their own colour and flavour to our beautiful ever-changing city. There’s no way I could ever choose a favaourite, but in light of the second recent London Bridge terror attack I thought I’d just select my chat with Ellen and Justin as here we had two young Londoners putting themselves in harms way for all our benefit, without a moment’s thought for their own safety. Courage that was replicated a few weeks ago once again in virtually the same spot.
As we move from Christmas festivities to welcoming another year, take a quiet moment to consider all the wonderful people in your life and wider community who make life the wonderful kaleidoscope it is today.
I aim to bring you more inspirational guests in 2020. It may even be you.
I’m Steve Lazarus and this is Your London Legacy.
I want you to imagine for a minute that you are taking a stroll across London Bridge on a beautiful balmy summers evening with the love of your life by your side. Across the road, you suddenly notice what appears to be a fight taking place. In fact, you soon realize that there are three men dressed in black viciously attacking a police officer. You run over to try and help—when one of the assailants lunges at you with a large kitchen knife.
This is not a made-up story. This is real life. This is what happened to Justin Jones and his partner Ellen Gauntlett on 3rd June 2017. Little did they know, they had stumbled straight into the middle of a terrorist attack that went on to claim the lives of 8 innocent victims while injuring and changing the lives of dozens more. Justin and Ellen are two remarkable young people whose exceptional bravery no doubt saved lives, for which they have received several special awards.
This is the story of two ordinary but very special Londoners—and this is Your London Legacy.
“There were just people lying on the pavement…where they’d obviously just run past and stabbed people.”
Ellen and Justin typically relax on weekends by taking walks or rehearsing for musicals—as they both love to sing. Back in June of 2017 they had just finished a run of a musical and were going out to celebrate Justin’s upcoming birthday. After going to a Lego exhibition on the South bank, and failing to find a restaurant they wanted to eat at, they came back across London Bridge. Not finding that restaurant would forever change their lives—as Justin noticed three men in all black assaulting a police officer on the bridge.
Without hesitating he crossed the road to help, and that’s when one of the attackers turned a pink kitchen knife on Justin. The terrorist lunged at Justin, missing by only a foot—and then the three men ran off. It was then Ellen came over and found the bodies on the ground with Justin. Charlie, an off duty police officer who had come to help the other officer, was still conscious on the ground. Justin and Ellen kept pressure on his wounds with their hands—and then began to soak in the breadth of the attack. A van crashed into the steps of a church, and more victims laid out on the pavement. They stayed with Charlie because it was something they could control and help with immediately.
Other police and medical professionals showed up but Ellen and Justin refused to leave Charlie’s side, riding to the hospital with him. They finally had a moment to breath at the hospital. They sat down on a couch and finally took everything in. They were there amongst other victims—and after what they had seen on the bridge they knew not everyone was going to make it.
Ellen and Justin weren’t the only civilians to share incredible stories of bravery. Many Londoners warded off the terrorists with whatever they had. Bread crates. A skateboard. Pushing them out of a pub to save the people inside. It was a clear instance of Londoners coming together under the most extreme circumstances to be there for one another. And two years on, Ellen and Justin don’t find themselves wrapped in hate and negativity over the terrorists themselves—they’ve focused on staying connected to those they were involved with, making friends, and only remembering those who were lost.