Model James Yates witnessed the London Attack firsthand

Model James Yates recently witnessed the London attack firsthand, while temporarily trapped in a nearby basement bar. We talked to Yates about his experience of the event, including confronting bomb squads and emergency response techniques. Yates also revealed whether he, at any point, feared for his life and explained the effect that the violent attack has had on London since its occurrence. See Yate’s captured footage above.

The Chic Edit: Can you describe how the experience depicted in your video began?

James Yates: We were in a bar in the basement downstairs and the staff sprinted through, ordering all off the staff behind the bar to stop serving and quickly taking all the cash tills out. We weren’t sure exactly what was going on to start with, but then the bouncers started trying to evacuate everyone from the building, saying it was a matter of urgency. That was the first time we thought something was actually happening.

CE: When the aggression in the pub started, what was your first thought?

JY: My first thought, really—I don’t really know, because everyone was pretty calm. No one really responded by panicking. Obviously, we weren’t quite sure as to what exactly the situation was and the police weren’t really saying; they were just telling us to stay down. So, you have to assume that there was something going on and there were murmurs of a shooting outside. To start with, you didn’t know it was a terrorist attack, just that there was some sort of scene going on outside of the pub and we had to stay inside for our own safety.

CE: Was there any point that you feared for your life?

JY: I didn’t particularly fear for my life as such, but I definitely was scared or more wary when the second police squad ran through, shouting for us to get back down on the floor, considering they were carrying guns and there was the bomb squad. That was definitely the time I was most fearful that something big could be happening. But I didn’t particularly fear for my life. The thought didn’t really cross my mind. We were in a basement, which everyone always says is probably the safest place.

CE: In the video you can be heard saying, “It’s not Muslims.” Can you elaborate on this?

JY: To be honest, I’m just sick of Islam being tarnished with this brush, that it is Islam’s fault. These people are using this as an excuse to carry out these things and almost justify themselves. As soon as you commit a murder or an attack like this, you are going against the biggest rule of Islam—as I understand—that you should not kill. So, it’s easy to just shout “Muslim terrorists” as was shouted in the video; it’s just not my opinion on the matter. I don’t want people to all be lumped together because of a belief that they are all terrorists and committing all this evil. I just don’t like how that has become the way people react.

CE: What was the atmosphere like once the terror died down?

JY: The atmosphere was pretty solemn, to be honest. Everyone was a bit quiet, a bit shaken up. When you’re caught up in it, it’s one of those things that you never really expect to happen to you, so, for a few hours you didn’t really talk. No one really spoke about it. It was all a bit of a shock. I felt very lucky—we all did—that we managed to escape unscathed. The whole atmosphere that evening was quite respectful, I suppose—a state of shock. You don’t expect that to happen to anyone you know, let alone yourself. So, even the following day, I didn’t really know how to confront it. I didn’t really know how to be upset about it or how I was feeling or where my head was at—a bit of confusion I guess, that it actually happened or if it had just been an awful dream.

CE: How has your experience changed your perspective?

JY: I don’t think it’s really changed my perspective other than realizing just how quickly the police responded and how well-trained they are. It’s very easy to slam the police and how these people got away with it, but they were so quick onto the scene and so clear in telling us what to do that they were obviously very well-trained. They knew what they were talking about and knew the best and safest way for them to go about it for us. In terms of perspective on the whole of London, not really a lot has changed. It’s a huge city. You can’t really let it affect the way you go about your life.

CE: How do you think the attack has changed London?

JY: I don’t think it will change London at all. The way people have responded to this, they’re not going to take it. They’re not going to be scared or stop doing things because of a potential threat. There was a guy in a video walking along, refusing to run so he didn’t spill his pint, even at the exact time that it was happening. London is very resilient and caring. Yeah, of course we’re sad but we’re not going to be made different because of these actions. We’re just going to get on with it and be typically British and just do what we need to do with our lives. You’re not going to change that or scare us into a different way of life.

CE: How can London, and society in general, move forward following these violent tragedies?

JY: For me, to move forward, I think you’ve just got to take hate—well this sounds cheesy, but—with love. There are so many people that responded to me on Twitter with such hateful comments, both towards me and towards Muslims. That’s just not the answer. That’s going to get more people angry. The more you respond to stuff like that, the more people reply with an even bigger hatred, and that’s a vicious cycle.

So the answer is: you’ve got to be more caring, you’ve got to be more open-minded and accepting of cultures—and that goes both ways—for us to be understanding of Islamic faith and also that Muslims have to be accepting of Western culture. I don’t think in 2017 the answer is to close yourself off, as, obviously, some of the world has done. I think you have to be more inclusive. Otherwise, we’re just going to end up constantly at war with one another. I think the way forward is to be more integrated and more embracing and understanding of each other.

CE: Did you gain a sense of community with the public following the attack?

JY: Massively—a huge sense of community. Even leaving the pub at the time, people who had been removed from their friends were saying, “Can I walk with you?” or, “Can I help?” I was having people messaging me on Twitter and Facebook, like, “I’ve got room for up to four people to stay the night…I can pick you up if you need somewhere to stay.” You know, a very open-armed community. I also had tons of messages from people who I might not have seen for, in some cases, nearly ten years, saying, “I saw you’ve been caught up in it and I hope you’re okay,” and people that I’ve never met before saying, “Thank you…hope you’re alright…get safe.” When it hits this close to home, people just want you to be alright.

CE: Can you describe the mood in London now?

JY: Obviously, people are sad. You don’t’ want to be caught up in an attack like this so close to home—or anywhere for that matter. People are more wary of their surroundings, maybe keeping a bit more of an eye out, but, like I said before: hugely resilient. I don’t think Londoners are the type of people that will let this change their way of life. If you look at the reaction on Twitter, there was respect for the victims and the people caught up, but there was also a lot of humour coming out of it, which I think is a British way of answering pretty much anything. [There were] people making jokes about London: “London isn’t left reeling from terrorists, it’s left reeling from some one putting way too much milk in a cup of tea.” Londoners will go about their lives the way Londoners have always gone about their lives and they’re not going to allow this to stop them.

Follow James Yates on Instagram.