On Wednesday afternoon I was dashing back to the Commons from a meeting in the City, worried I wouldn't make it in time for an imminent vote in the Chamber. But as I approached the entrance to the Parliamentary Estate from Westminster Underground station I was taken aback by the security doors at the entrance beginning to seal.
Whenever a vote in Parliament is called the stairwells and corridors get quite congested as MPs leave the meetings and offices where they are to get to the Chamber to vote. I would have expected a crowd behind the door, but it was immediately clear things were not as they should be. People were screaming for the doors to be opened, and as they were a number of colleagues came running out reporting that shots had been fired inside Carriage Gates.
My immediate assumption was that there was an assailant on the other side with a firearm from which people were fleeing. As Parliament was sitting, my two-year old son Seth was in the nursery and my parental instinct was naturally to protect him. I ran through Westminster station to get up onto Whitehall, but the entrance back into the Estate on that side had already been secured. I knew of an alternative way to try and get back in which thankfully I was able to use to gain access and get to the nursery.
When I arrived the children were already been ushered into a safer space and Seth was pleased to see what he thought was his Dad coming to pick him up early. At this stage no details were known but it was clear this was a real attack and it was of a serious nature.
I was extremely glad that by the time news started to break I was able to tell my wife I was with Seth and that we were okay. I would not have wanted to be have experienced the lockdown separated from him or, even worse, stuck outside whilst he was in there. I know for many parents this is unfortunately what they had to face.
Most parents will appreciate looking after a toddler in a confined space for several hours isn't easy, and looking after a lot of them might sound very difficult indeed. But the nursery staff were magnificent. We read some stories, made an impromptu slide, and watched some Peppa Pig. All the time there was constant communication to reassure parents and loved ones things were okay.
The lockdown went well past the usual pick up time for the children and camp beds were found so that they could sleep. It looked like a scene from the blitz where people had to sleep in the underground tunnels, only with little people. When the announcement came that the lockdown was ending and we began to leave, you could see from their faces that many people were shocked to be reminded that there would be children caught up in the centre of it all.
In the Statement made by the Prime Minister in the Commons the next day, I was able to put on the record my thanks and gratitude to all of the nursery staff for what they did. To make a Parliament work, and a democracy function, many different people do jobs on the Parliamentary Estate that come with the added burden of being based in such a sensitive location. They do so with incredible dedication and steadfastness. They deserve our thanks and gratitude at all times, but especially after a week like this one.
Jonathan Reynolds MP is the Member of Parliament for Stalybridge and Hyde and Shadow City Minister