Traders tell of their ‘stronger bond’ in wake of London Bridge attacks

Businesses caught up in the London Bridge attack today sent out a message of defiance as they prepared to mark the anniversary.

The area around Borough Market was turned into a scene of carnage when the terrorists struck on June 3 last year.

On the night of the attack Esther Zea, 22, manager of the German beer hall Katzenjammer, walked upstairs to look out of her pub’s doors. She saw a man “covered in blood” and another person whose cheek was cut open.

One year on, she said: “We shouldn’t be scared of these cowards. Terrorism won’t stop me from going to a pub or to the market or seeing my friends and having a drink. Between us and everyone at Borough Market there is a stronger bond.”

Londoners flee in the aftermath of the terror attack in Borough Market (PA)

Jack Applebee, from Applebee’s fish restaurant, said “the whole public” would not be cowed by the terrorists.

The 25-year-old from Woodford said watching the Manchester Arena attack coverage two weeks earlier “helped me come up with a plan” for what he would do in a similar emergency. 

Scenes in Borough Market after it reopened for the first time following the attack (PA)

Mr Applebee was given a “20-second head start” thanks to the warning shouts of student nurse Rhiannon Owen, who alerted people that the knifemen were charging around the corner.

He said: “I knew if something happened I would get everyone inside and close the shutters, get them out back and maybe escape on to the roof. The advice to help everyone stay calm also helped. We were pouring wine for everyone locked up with us and trying to keep spirits high. 

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“We thought there was bloody war going on outside but everyone dealt with it in their own way.” In the days after the atrocity, many traders could not access their businesses because of a police cordon stretching from London Bridge to the bottom of Borough High Street.

Richard Martin, owner of Wokit noodle bar on Stoney Street, called the terrorists’ rampage an “attack on our culture”.

Two of his staff, one of whom nearly had their throat slit, were unable to return to work due to the trauma. But the 28-year-old from Notting Hill said the market pulled together and showed a “British spirit of a stiff upper lip”, adding: “Everyone was pitching and helping each other and sharing. There was a feeling of ‘screw you, we’re back’. There was a mentality not to let it affect us and to keep going.”

Eleven days after the attack, Borough Market’s bell rang out to declare London’s oldest fruit and veg market back open. The clean-up at Wokit took three days after the cordon came down.

Mr Martin said: “When we returned everything was as we had left it. People had left food out. There were still plates everywhere. People even left taps on so our kitchen was flooded. It was a chef’s nightmare.” 

Joana Soares, 23, a waitress at Elliot’s Café in Stoney Street, where a colleague was stabbed, said: “After the attack we all felt stronger. There was this sense of supporting the market and businesses that had been through this calamity.

“The big motivation behind everybody was that we didn’t just fall into the terrorists’ trap, that you didn’t let it stop you doing business and being yourself. It was a powerful feeling.”

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