It all happened so fast. One moment Candice Hedge and her boyfriend Luke were serving food and drinks at a local restaurant, the next, panicked customers were fleeing in fear.
‘It was chaotic. All I could think was: “I don’t want to die,”’ Candice, 35, tells New Idea of the night armed terrorists caused mayhem on the streets of London.
Eight people died that fateful night on June 3 last year, and the Queensland native was one of the 48 injured in the attack. A year on, Candice credits her positive outlook and strong relationship for helping her through the darkest time in her life.
‘Life is so short,’ Candice says in an exclusive interview from London. ‘We need to stop thinking about our differences and focus on the future.'
The pair found work at Elliot’s Cafe, a restaurant situated just a stone’s throw from London Bridge.
‘We were both working on the night and it was actually a great evening until it happened. All of a sudden, people just started heaving into the restaurant,’ Candice recalls.
‘It was chaotic, no-one really knew what was going on, but before I knew it, I could see the terrorists out on the front.’
Luke had begun to usher customers into the basement kitchen but, from the other side of the restaurant, Candice didn’t think she would make it in time and, in that moment, she made a snap decision.
‘I could see Luke standing in the stairwell waiting for me, but I knew that if I ran over to him the attackers would see and I didn’t want to lead them to all those people downstairs,’ she explains.
Instead, Candice heroically stayed behind, crouching beside the front door as the attackers entered the restaurant.
‘They started yelling,’ Candice recalls the horror. ‘And as one of them turned as if to leave, he saw me ducking down beside him.
Her throat was slashed in the brutal attack and, as the terrorists left the restaurant, Candice ran for her life.
Grabbing a napkin from a nearby table, she clutched her neck and fled downstairs to Luke. In huddled silence, the pair hid under the restaurant until the police arrived, petrified the attackers would return.
‘In the moment I was just trying to keep my eyes open. There was no other option. I was sat there scared for my life and vomiting up blood, but the only thing in my head was: “Please just stay awake.”’
Candice says she won’t allow what happened to define her. She’s determined to move on.
‘Thankfully, my injuries weren’t serious. He did graze my windpipe, but I just feel so lucky it wasn’t anything worse,’ she says.
Surviving the ordeal has given Candice a new lease of life and she is now determined to conquer her lifelong dreams.
‘After the attack, Luke and I decided we want to start our own business in Australia. I love the hospitality industry, so why not? We’re planning to do that in a few years, but first we want to travel a bit more.'
Despite everything they’ve been through, Candice and Luke have been able to help each other overcome the horrific attack, and now look forward to life together.
‘Luke and I are so happy together and we have so many plans,’ Candice adds. ‘I’m completely focused on the future.’
To read more about Candice's story pick up a copy of the New Idea on sale now.