MADRID (AP) – They came to London from across Europe and beyond, a generation of rovers hoping to build futures in a city known for the vibrancy of its economy – and its nightlife.
Then, on one of the year’s first temperate Saturday nights, the dream ended when three men used a van and knives to turn a part of town perfect for enjoying youthful energy into a scene of staggering horror.
Of the eight people killed in the attacks on and near London Bridge, only one was British. Three were tourists. And four were foreigners living in Britain’s capital, a place with a reputation for welcoming ambition of any nationality.
Spaniard Ignacio Echeverria and Frenchmen Alexandre Pigeard and Sebastien Belanger embodied the experience of countless Europeans who jump from one city to another following jobs and opportunities.
Echeverria, 39, studied law in Madrid and in Paris. He then worked briefly in Brussels before returning to Spain. The lack of prospects in the financial industry at home had him packing for London in late 2015. Echeverria ended up at British bank HSBC.
“For more than a decade, my brother received better job offers outside of Spain, but he never accepted any jobs before the HSBC offer in London because he wanted to be close to his family,” Echeverria’s elder brother, Joaquin, told The Associated Press.
The banker first crashed with his younger sister Isabel, while getting accustomed to a new life in The City.
“As a man of strong principles and solid criteria, Ignacio found a home in London, where there is a huge demand in the industry of financial compliance,” said Rafael Duarte, a former boss and family friend who, despite Echeverria’s initial reluctance, recommended he take the job.
Pigeard, a 27-year-old from the Normandy city of Caen, had been in London for 2Â½ years. With training in winemaking, he bounced around cafe jobs in Caen and Brussels before settling in London, according to Le Manche Libre newspaper.
He died after being slashed in the neck at Boro Bistro, a popular hangout near Borough Market for London’s many French residents.
In fact, three of the dead and eight of the nearly 50 people wounded on Saturday night were French, according to French President Emmanuel Macron, who lived in London himself when he worked in the banking industry.
“It’s a heavy price that we have paid in these attacks,” Macron said Wednesday.
Belanger, 36, had been in London for seven years working as a chef, according to the newspaper Ouest-France. But on Saturday night, he was another of the many French customers at Boro Bistro when the attackers stormed in.
The family of Xavier Thomas, 45, confirmed to France Info radio that he was the third French victim, soon after his body was found in the River Thames on Wednesday. Thomas was visiting London with his girlfriend, and the couple was crossing the London Bridge when the attackers’ van plowed into the crowd.
Two Australian women were also among the dead, one a visitor and one who had moved to London for work.
Sara Zelenak, 21, was said to have been working in London as an au pair, caring for two young boys. She is thought to have become separated from her friends on Saturday night as they ran for their lives.
The second Australian, Kirsty Boden, was a 28-year-old nurse whose family said she died while trying to help other victims of the van and knife rampage. The family of Briton James McMullan said he is also believed to have died in the attack after his bank card was found on one of the victims.
London’s many foreigners will continue to call the city home, despite the uncertainty following the attack – and despite Britain’s vote to leave the European Union. Echeverria’s younger sister Isabel – the one he stayed with when he first arrived – is among them, her family said.
“My brother Ignacio tried to stop some terrorists and lost his life trying to save others,” she wrote on Facebook. “Igna, we love you and we’ll never forget you.”
Sotto and Lori Hinnant contributed from Paris.