Across the street, flowers still carpeted a corner of London’s Parliament Square after the attack that jolted the world two weeks ago. But hope triumphed over terror at Westminster Abbey today with a service for the dead, the injured, and all those who came to their aid.
Candles were lit and held by each of the 1800 people in the great church – a symbol that light would always overcome darkness.
Families of the four killed, and survivors of the Westminster Bridge attack, were joined by paramedics, nurses, doctors, community and faith leaders, ambassadors and politicians.
Among them was Melissa Payne Cochran, from Utah, who lost her husband, Kurt Cochran, 54, in the attack. She smiled as she arrived at the abbey in a wheelchair after being treated for leg and rib injuries. The couple had been in London celebrating their 25th anniversary. She was accompanied by her parents.
The others who died as a result of the attack were Aysha Frade, 44, a college worker and mother of two on her way to collect her children from school; Leslie Rhodes, 75, a retired window cleaner from South London; and police constable Keith Palmer, 48, stabbed while on duty at the Houses of Parliament.
Relatives of the dead and injured had a private meeting with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, who attended the service.
A sea of dark blue filled the abbey as 300 Metropolitan police officers took their seats to pay tribute to Palmer, a father of two, stabbed as he tackled Khalid Masood, 52. Rows of green uniforms represented medical workers who treated the injured.
Masood was born in Britain, a troubled youth who served several prison terms for violent crimes before he became a Muslim. He drove a rented 4×4 into crowds on Westminster Bridge and then stabbed Palmer, who was unarmed. Masood was shot dead by another officer.
In an interview with the BBC before the service, Melissa Cochran paid tribute to her late husband and explained she had “no hate” towards his killer.
“Kurt was probably the best man I’ve ever met. He was sweet and kind and I’m extremely proud of him. And I’m very happy that the world now knows what a wonderful man he was.
“He would probably hate all the publicity. He’s a very private kind of person. Very generous. Very sweet. And the love of my life.”
As tears flowed, she described how her parents broke the news that he had died after she came out of recovery from surgery.
“Both grabbed my hands and said that he didn’t make it. Which crushed me,” she said.
“Fortunately I have a wonderful family and I’m able to take their strength and recover. It’s been difficult, obviously, but Kurt would have wanted me to keep going and with such a beautiful family … it’s been OK.
Asked about her feelings towards his killer, she replied: “I don’t feel any ill will towards him. I don’t know what he was feeling or thinking, or anything that had been going on in his life. And so I can’t relate.
“I just know that unfortunately he didn’t have the qualities and the beautiful heart that my husband had. So, I actually feel a little sorry for him. No hate.”
The abbey saw faith leaders join the three royals, UK home secretary (internal affairs minister) Amber Rudd and London mayor Sadiq Khan.
Prince William laid a wreath of spring flowers at the Innocent Victims memorial as he arrived. His card said: “In memory of the innocent lives; lost to us all on 22 March 2017.”
The dean of Westminster, John Hall, told the invited congregation: “We weep for the violence, for the hatred, for the loss of life, for all that divides and spoils our world.
“It was not meant to be like this. It should not be like this. Violence and hatred are not the answer.
“We have called this a service of hope. And despite the horror of the random killing and hatred shown two weeks ago today, there is much for which we can be thankful and much to offer us hope.”
First responders, including police and medical workers from nearby St Thomas’ hospital who rushed over Westminster Bridge to the scene moments after the attack, met the royal trio at the abbey following the service.