So, a kind of eventful weekend for a change, took my car to get fixed up and found my brake pads were 95% worn, got a haircut, and went to Bluewater shopping centre and we thought there was a terror attack in progress.
So we were in John Lewis at the time, just shopping as you do – Me, my parents and my brothers girlfriend Scarlett, when suddenly there seemed to be a lot of commotion from outside (the entrance to John Lewis, from the shopping centre), we suddenly started seeing LOADS of people start running into the shop and people shouting, like 50+ people suddenly just running in our direction. So naturally, so naturally – herd mentality and all that, we started moving as well.
My family were somewhat more distraught than I was, I remember hearing my mum shouting for Scarlett, and my dad yelling for me whilst I was trying to work out what the hell was happening. The scene was a bit chaotic, with parents yelling for their children, and a few people had fallen over whilst running in the panic. Hundreds of us streamed through the store while the staff looked baffled, I saw a bunch of them retreating into staff areas. Towards the end of the shop, a large revolving door had stopped because people were pushing on it, and a couple dozen people were ‘trapped’ inside trying to get out (protips: use the fire escape doors, not the revolving doors…)
As we gathered outside, many people were trying to find their families and loads of people straight up just left – got in their cars and just got out of there. We all got out safely and without injury and looked on as people continued to stream out of the building. We were fairly sure it was a false alarm, as there had been no sirens or fire alarms sounded yet, so we began to walk the perimeter of Bluewater to get to the next exit (map) over by the Village. It was really interesting walking around and hearing people talk about the situation, and see it all develop, majority of people had no idea what was happening, but similar to us, just saw a crowd start running and went along with it – better safe than sorry and all that. The rumours and Chinese whispers ranged from gunman, to ‘suspicious package’ to ‘bomb’ to ‘fire’.
Protip #2 : Twitter is awesome – I basically got all my info from twitter whilst we were walking outside, the #bluewater tag suddenly flooded with loads of tweets from ranging from urging people to stay away, to people talking about ditching their KFC, as well as the more useful stuff like what actually happened. 5-10 minutes later we heard police sirens, and then 5 minutes after that I started seeing some retweets from the Kent police with the actual updates.
The cause then?
Apparently a kitchen appliance went off in Nandos and made a loud bang with smoke, a fire alarm was pulled, and then someone shouted bomb and then began asking people to evacuate. The crazy thing is that, for anyone who has been to Bluewater, Nandos is pretty damn far away from John Lewis, so it must have really been a major reaction of people following other people running for it to have gotten to us.
It was a really interesting though kind of scary experience, a useful ‘drill’ if you will – and an interesting look at how everyone naturally reacts to these sort of events, it’s unsurprising to hear that apparently over the food court, it was complete chaos – with food being thrown about, overturned buggies and chairs and all sorts. I found myself surprised at my own natural response, which was to stay calm but alert – perhaps just the gamer in me, but my first reaction was to break line of sight with the entrance and put some shelving between me and the front of the shop, which in retrospect probably wouldn’t have saved me if there were an actual bomb situation occurring.