In one of Britain’s most shocking terrorist attacks, one teenager found his life changed forever. Speaking to Politicalite’s Jay Beecher, he gives us his spine-tingling account.
19-year-old Travis Frain left the houses of Parliament on the 22nd March, 2017, with a spring in his step. Then a second year student of History and Politics at Edge Hill University, the red-haired aspiring teacher from Lancashire was in good cheer and was savoring every minute of the Campus’ 3-day-trip to London.
“Me and a group of 4 other lads decided to get some fresh air” Travis began to relive the events of that fateful day. “It wasn’t really something that we put much thought into; we were only really killing time until the next meeting.”
“We left through Carriage Gates, likely unwittingly straight past PC Keith Palmer, and then turned the corner and walked onto Westminster Bridge”.
Just a few minutes or so later; in what seemed like the blink of an eye since stepping out onto the street, 5 innocent lives would be taken in the name of Allah, and PC Keith Palmer – a loving husband and father – would lay bleeding to death right on the very doorstep of British democracy.
“We got about a third of the way across the bridge” Travis continued to give me his vivid account. “I was texting a friend from back home at the time and so I had my head down. That was when suddenly pone of the lads shouted something like “Travis, look!” I shot my head up, and then I saw it – the vehicle hurtling towards me; and I heard it – the sound of it accelerating as it mounted the pavement”.
“I didn’t get a glimpse of the driver. It was simply impossible to do because the car (including the windshield) was smashed-up so badly by the time it reached me [having struck other civilians] that you couldn’t possibly have seen inside. We were all on that same pavement, but I was on the side closest to the road”.
“Within what could’ve been a matter of seconds or even less, I was struck. Everything next is all a blur. I just recall seeing the car coming towards me, and then seeing the sky, the tip of Big Ben upside-down out of the corner of my eye, and then, nothing”.
“As strange as it sounds, I didn’t remember the feeling of the impact until many months later, which was quite puzzling, but doctors have put it down to trauma”.
Travis, like many other innocent, ordinary people around him on the bridge that day, now found himself in unimaginable agony on the cold pavement.
“I didn’t lose consciousness at any point” he said. “After the initial impact my body landed on the concrete, whilst my head landed on the stomach of one of the other lads who had already fallen to the ground after receiving a glancing blow from the car’s wing mirror. Docs said afterwards that that’s probably why my head injuries were limited in comparison to fractures received elsewhere on parts of my body that hit the concrete”.
Dazed and shaken, the teenager pulled himself back up onto his feet and began to take stock of the carnage around him. Locals, tourists, commuters, men, women, and other young adolescents lay flattened or crumpled along the roadside. One victim, a female Romanian tourist on a short vacation with her boyfriend, was thrown so high by the car’s impact that her broken body flew over the bridge’s parapet and tumbled unconscious to the river Thames below. Sadly, despite being rescued by the crew of a tour boat, the 31-year-old tourist, Andreea Cristea – described by her family as a “wonderful daughter, sister, partner, dedicated friend, and the most unique and life-loving person you could imagine” – eventually succumbed to her extensive injuries and passed away two weeks later.
Back on the bridge, Travis continued in attempting to digest the horror scene he now found himself unwillingly participating in.
“It was all chaotic; very chaotic” he told me. “A lot of blood and bits of the car were scattered along the pavement. There were also a lot of visible serious injuries. Out of respect for those who died though, I don’t like to talk about that much”.
“When I pulled myself up from my friend, I remember he pointed at blood running down my face. But then I noticed he had a large gash on his own head, which I immediately pointed out and then realized that it probably wasn’t my blood running down my face, but his”.
“I picked up my phone which was on the pavement a couple of meters away. At this point I could feel some pain in my leg but I was alright to stand as long as I essentially put all my weight on the other leg to keep my balance”.
“The main injury I noticed, and which was my main concern, was my hand. Not only was it really painful, but a number of the fingers were pointing in the complete wrong direction; two of them pretty seriously. It was a horrible sight; the type of thing you’d look away from in a film, never mind on your own hand. It was also around that time, very soon after the attack, that we noticed that another of the lads had gone missing, just as we started hearing people screaming “someone’s gone over!” referring to someone who’d been thrown into the Thames. Obviously we started to fear the worse. But when we looked over the bridge we couldn’t see anyone in the river”.
“After all of that I wasn’t on my feet for long, and I soon started to feel a hell of a lot worse, having to carefully lower myself to the ground”.
The adrenaline now quickly replaced by crippling pain, Travis lay there once more in excruciating pain and creeping exhaustion.
“There were a lot of people who walked past, eager to get off the bridge” he told me. “But there were also a lot of people who ran to our aid. An off-duty police officer for example began trying to coordinate things, and a number of students ran towards us to help in any way they could. I’ll always remember an Asian student who came up to me and began to speak quite quickly. In a dazed state I couldn’t really understand what he was saying, and I think eventually he must have realized that. He slowed down and explained to me that he was a medicine student or something along those lines, and asked me if I needed assistance. I pointed a bit further down the bridge to a group of people, a number of whom looked unresponsive, and essentially sent him on his way. I never saw him again, but assume he went on to help the people I’d gestured to. It’s people like that who we need to sing the praises of if you ask me”.
Whilst the shaken, broken, in some cases fatally inured souls on Westminster Bridge were left to wait for what must have felt like a lifetime for help, 49-year-old British Islamist Khalid Masood reached the climax of his ISIS-inspired brief reign of terror, driving his rented Hyundai Tucson at almost 80 mph along the final stretch of the pavement, indiscriminately swerving and mowing down anyone he could line up with his battered bonnet.
Finally crashing the 4×4 into the iron railings in front of Parliament yard, Khalid grabbed two large knives from the side door, ditched the smoldering vehicle, and burst through the tall proud gate to the Palace of Westminster.
Wearing black clothes, the bearded Jihadists then ran wildly around the corner into Parliament Square, and straight through the open Carriage Gates. He was met there by police constable Keith Palmer, a 16-year-serving member of the MET, who, although unarmed, went to tackle him to prevent the Jihadist from entering the building and carrying out his last stint of butchery. In a frenzy, Khalid charged towards the officer and began to stab him as hard and as deep and as many times as he could muster, before rising back to his feet, his hands and face sprayed with flecks of block.
Sitting in a parked car nearby, the close protection officer and bodyguard to Sir Michael Fallon (who had popped in to cast his vote) was watching the entire attack unfold.
Acting promptly, he leaped out of the car and ran towards Khalid, raising his gun and shooting him three times in the chest from short range.
Khalid hunched forward and collapsed, crumpling-up to the floor.
The attack itself had been brief. A mere 82 seconds from start to finish, to be precise. Yet in that fleeting moment – brought about by indoctrination, radicalization, and a literal interpretation of the Qu’ran, more than 50 innocent people were seriously injured, 5 people died, and an entire nation began to feel that little bit less secure – and all by the simple means of a British Muslim purchasing two kitchen knives and throwing away his deposit on an SUV.
Back on the bridge, Travis decided it was time to make some phone-calls.
“I rang my mum at one point” he told me, “and then I called other classmates on the trip to try to make contact with our lecturer. Let’s not forget [that] they were still inside Parliament, so whatever had just happened to us could quite possibly be coming their way”.
“When we finally got through to the lecturer, the line was crackly and we couldn’t really hear. I later found out that around this time they were all forced into a single room along with MPs and so on”.
As film crews and news helicopters dashed to the scene, Parliament was placed under immediate and complete lock-down. Prime Minister Theresa May, who had just voted in the Commons, was standing in the member’s lobby with fellow Tory MPs when her security staff quickly led her away, ushered her into a silver Jaguar, and whisked her – sirens blazing all around – to the safety of Downing Street.
“Ambulances, police vans, all began to arrive periodically” said Travis. “A lot of the more serious injuries had to be dealt with before us obviously, and we were all labelled with trauma cards indicating our injuries. Mine was a 2, and my friends were given 3s. 1 meant unresponsive, 2 was serious, 3 was for the walking wounded, and so on. My friends were walked away to a nearby hotel that was being used as a staging area for St Thomas Hospital, and I was left with police and paramedics to wait for a stretcher. A little while later I was taken on one of them to the other side of the bridge where there was a number of other people on stretchers and in wheelchairs. By now I was being given morphine, oxygen, and another painkiller that I had to inhale”.
“Eventually they moved me into an ambulance and took me to King’s College Hospital in Lambeth. The police officer stayed with me the whole time”.
At the hospital, Travis was scanned, x-rayed, and fully examined, with multiple injuries observed.
“I broke my left leg, tore a ligament near the knee area, suffered a laceration of sorts at the top of the leg (that’s suspected to have been caused by fragments of either glass or metal from the car), I broke most of the fingers on my left hand, had internal bruising on the ribs, quite serious whiplash, and other cuts and bruises across my body”.
“[The attack] obviously immediately affected me physically as I was on crutches for about 5 months, followed by a walking stick for another month after that. My left arm was in a cast for a considerable amount of time, as well as stitches in my leg. Eventually I had an operation on the leg to put in a screw to repair the ligament, that will be there permanently, and I also had a procedure on my hand under local anesthetic to re-position my fingers back into place”.
Understandably, Travis wasn’t keen to divulge how the event had affected him mentally and emotionally, and out of respect, I decided not to press him.
“The psychological impact isn’t really something I’d ever go into much detail with anyone over, but the whole thing has affected me and my friends considerably, and continues to do so to this day. It’s been quite a tough year following the attack to say the least, only made worse by the fact that there was very little practical support available to myself and others, meaning that I’ll eventually have to go private for physio and counselling, and rely on donations from the London Emergencies Trust to cover it. What’s more upsetting is the fact that this lack of support is clearly not an issue, and a lack of help for victims appears to have been present for years now – God knows how many have been affected negatively as a result”.
Being caught up in such a spontaneous, intense, and life-threatening situation has – quite naturally – made the young student reevaluate certain aspects of his future.
“I’m not really sure what the future holds if I’m honest” he told me. “I had a set plan when I originally applied for Uni; to go into teaching once I’d finished my degree. But, as you can imagine, this sort of thing really does throw everything in the air and genuinely makes you reconsider things”.
“In many ways, I’d like to influence change in this area to help improve conditions for those who may be injured in future attacks, but at the same time there’s an overriding feeling that it’s something that I’d ideally want to put behind me if possible, to at least attempt some form of closure”.
One (private) organisation where Travis did manage to find some form of ongoing support was the Tim Parry Jonathan Ball Peace Foundation.
“I became a trustee for the Foundation around 6 months following the attack” he said proudly. “I’ve also joined Survivors Against Terror, which was formed when I came into contact with a number of other people who had faced certain issues – some similar to mine, and some different – after their involvement or bereavement in terror attacks. Both organisations should work together in my opinion to raise the profile of the Foundation so that people can be made more aware of where support can be found in the aftermath of an attack. I do still believe, however, that Governments and elected officials could do a lot more. It shouldn’t have to fall on the charity sector to fill the gap”.
Travis’ full interview, along with exclusive interviews with Islamists, Muslim hate preachers, leading politicians, and other survivors of terrorism, can be read in Jay Beecher’s new book, ‘The Fifth Column: An Investigation Into Islamic Extremism”. Out this Summer.