The Union Jack flies at half staff in a photo of the Palace of Westminster, home of Britain’s Houses of Parliament. Another picture shows a London Underground sign. Its words have been replaced by “We Are Not Afraid.”
Those images are on Alexis Arrabito’s Facebook page, along with posts about her travels to England and Ireland in March. Through social media, the 26-year-old Everett native shared what it was like to be in London the day of a terrorist attack.
“We are safe and sound in our hotel … what a sad and terrible thing that has happened here,” Arrabito posted March 22. Four pedestrians died and more than 50 were hurt that day when a driver mowed down people on London’s Westminster Bridge. The attacker, Khalid Masood, then crashed the SUV in front of Parliament, ran through a gate, and stabbed a police officer to death before being killed.
“Misty morning in Londontown, apropos of how we’re feeling as we head to the airport,” Arrabito posted March 24, the day she and her longtime boyfriend, Ian Plagmann, flew home.
Memories of the London violence were stirred as Arrabito saw Monday’s horrible news of a terrorist attack outside a Manchester, England, concert venue. Suicide bomber Salman Abedi killed 22 people and injured nearly 60 others by setting off an explosive device after pop singer Ariana Grande’s performance.
“It’s so extremely tragic, at a music concert,” said Arrabito, who now lives in Ellensburg. She’s horrified that another English city would be struck by terrorism so soon after the London killings. Yet she and Plagmann, undaunted, plan to keep traveling.
“We will go,” said Arrabito, a 2008 graduate of Everett High School. “We have several trips planned, to Mexico primarily. Our dream is to go to one European destination every year.”
She vowed Wednesday not to abandon that dream, despite a travel alert for Europe issued by the U.S. State Department. The alert, updated May 1, says “recent, widely reported incidents in France, Russia, Sweden and the United Kingdom demonstrate” that ISIS, al-Qa’ida and their affiliates “have the ability to plan and execute terrorist attacks in Europe.”
Travel alerts, according to the State Department, follow short-term events. The agency’s travel warnings signal whether people should consider going to a country at all.
“We really prioritize travel. We want to go as far as we can for as little money as possible,” said Arrabito, who works as a branch office administrator for Edward Jones Investments. The couple decided on their Britain trip after scouring websites for good deals.
The day before the London attack, they visited Stonehenge, Bath and Shakespeare’s home of Stratford-upon-Avon. On March 20, they rode the London Eye, a giant Ferris wheel, and took in sights of central London, including Westminster Palace.
On March 22, the day of the attack, they’d considered a helicopter tour of the city. “We had gone to some museums and were walking through Hyde Park. We noticed a bunch of helicopters in the sky. It was one of the nicer days of our trip, and we’re thinking, ‘Wow, everybody must have signed up for those helicopter rides,’’’ Arrabito said.
They then saw a Facebook message asking if they were OK.
“We hadn’t been watching the news,” she said. “Walking in Hyde Park, the sirens and sirens and sirens just kept coming.” Walking back to their hotel, they passed a house being guarded by police with machine guns. “Maybe it was somebody in Parliament,” she said.
They spent that evening watching TV news. “It was the end of our trip. It put a weird mood in the air, it was so sad,” Arrabito said.
She noted a comment made after the attack by London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, who called the threat of terror attacks “part and parcel” to life in a big city. “I don’t like to think that’s the truth,” Arrabito said. “We’ll never let that kind of thing stop us. That’s really giving them power, letting them win.”
“A lot of people are still traveling,” said Charley-Anne Costelloe, an office manager and travel agent at Lynnwood’s Anywhere But Here Travel Inc. She said Thursday that the agency advises travelers to be aware of their surroundings and let others know where they are.
“Some people are avoiding larger cities. They want to stay out in the country,” Costelloe said. “I’m not going to let it hold me back from living my life,” she said of the Manchester attack.
Arrabito and her boyfriend hope to visit all 50 states. They have spent time in the Midwest and the American South.
“Rest assured, there are 50 beautiful states,” she said. “We’re road trippers. We get a cheap flight, rent a car, go on a road trip and see the country. It’s one of the most patriotic things you could do.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-460; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn about the U.S. State Department’s current travel warnings and alerts, including an alert for Europe issued May 1, at: https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/alertswarnings.html