LONDON – A Florida State University student from St. Johns County was caught in the middle of the chaos in London on Wednesday as investigators there say there was a terrorist attack.
A knife-wielding man went on a deadly rampage in the heart of Britain's seat of power, plowing a car into pedestrians on London's Westminster Bridge before stabbing a police officer to death inside the gates of Parliament. Five people were killed, including the assailant, and 40 others were injured in what Prime Minister Theresa May condemned as a "sick and depraved terrorist attack."
Lawmakers, lords, staff and visitors were locked down after the man was shot by police within the perimeter of Parliament, just yards (meters) from entrances to the building itself and in the shadow of the iconic Big Ben clock tower. He died, as did three pedestrians on the bridge, and the police officer.
Among those on lockdown was Stephen Giannelli Jr., a junior at FSU who is interning at the House of Commons.
"It's been very, very surreal and somewhat rattling -- very rattling," Giannelli said.
The 20-year-old told News4Jax that he was in the British Parliament complex when the attacked happened, and workers rushed him and other interns into a conference room on the third floor, where he could see a lot of what was going on.
"There were people laying on the side of the bridge. We weren't sure what had happened because, at that point, we thought there was just a shooting. So my first reaction was those people had been shot. But then, obviously, we came to realize that those were people that had been struck by a car," Giannelli said.
A doctor who treated the wounded from the bridge said some had "catastrophic" injuries. Three police officers, several French teenagers on a school trip and two Romanian tourists were among the casualties.
He said it was a frightening scene watching the terror and chaos from a bird's eye view.
"It's incredibly sad to see what is going on. We're getting the numbers in. Every 10 or 15 minutes, there is a new news update," Giannelli said.
He texted his family and girlfriend to let them know he was locked down inside the building, but safe and OK.
"I literally got to see how quickly the police and emergency responders came. It was very impressive," he said.
While he's heartbroken, Giannelli said he's also thankful that it wasn't even worse.
"Being an American, obviously, there are shootings all the time. But for the people to have an event like this, it is very traumatic. It's very traumatic for me, as well," he said.
When News4Jax last spoke with Giannelli, he said he was still locked down in the building, but he has water, tea and his cellphone, so he's going to be OK.
Police said they were treating the attack as terrorism.