An Enniskillen teacher who was waiting for a coffee just yards away from Friday’s lorry attack in Stockholm, where four people were killed and 15 injured, feels “lucky to be alive”.
Jonathan Lappin is “saddened by the deaths” but has spoken of his determination to “continue living there with little fear of another attack [because] it’s the risk you take living in a capital city in Europe at present.”
Swedish police have arrested a 39-year-old man from Uzbekistan whose residency application was rejected last year. He is being held on suspicion of terrorist offences and police said he was known for having been sympathetic to extremist organisations.
The attack happened around 3pm last Friday when the man drove a lorry into pedestrians outside Åhllens department store in Stockholm city centre.
Jonathan, 28, who teaches science in Swedish and English at an International School in Stockholm had been having a celebratory fika (Swedish for coffee break) with a colleague to mark the end of term.
“We were meant to go to a coffee place closer to the school with a group of colleagues but I insisted we went to the central one as I had planned to go to Åhllens to get some gifts to bring home to Enniskillen,” said Jonathan.
“We ordered and sat down for around four minutes when people started to run outside with their phones out. Originally everyone thought it was some celebrity visiting the city on a Friday, but then people started to mass crowd into the coffee shop.
“I told my colleague Laura to get under the table in case there was a shooting like Paris.
“It all became quiet and some people decided to leave but the staff said they had a basement to lock us in if need be.”
Jonathan looked out the window and saw a mass of people “fleeing in fear” so he decided “it was time to get clear.”
He recalled: “As soon as we walked out I was immediately hit with the smell of burning and it was very eerie with just two police men walking around putting tape up. Then one of them started to shout very loudly at us to run and clear the area to Gamla Stan (old town).
“People were running as fast as they could. I thought there might be an explosion or a gunman on the loose so as soon as we got to the bridge for Gamla Stan, I decided with my colleague to not go there as its very toursity and would be close to roads where more vehicles could mount the pavement.
“We walked around the harbour and went to the museum island where there are country lake side paths where there are no vehicles and it was less crowded,” said Jonathan.
The pair had a 15-minute reprieve while they answered calls from concerned friends and relatives. But false rumours of a gunman prompted a “mass panic” so they fled that area too.
After a three hour wait in a restaurant, he walked eight kilometres home and recalls feeling “very stressed from the events and saddened by the deaths of the four people and the one dog.”
Jonathan reflected: “The fact I was so close to it and that I had planned to walk to the department store when it would have happened really makes me feel lucky to be alive.”
The former Portora student, who is now at home for Easter, said: “I still love Stockholm and find it to the one of the safest cities and most welcoming I’ve ever been to.
“Local Swedes encourage integration and really appreciate it when you speak Swedish to them. But, as with all societies, not everyone wants or chooses to adopt other cultures or learn the local language.”
He will return to Stockholm next Sunday and intends to revisit the site.
Reflecting on how Sweden will react to the attack, Jonathan said: “I think Sweden will still encourage a very open society but there may be questions raised about how the suspect was able to hide from police for so long and evade deportation.”