A Melton woman who took part in a cycle ride to Paris in memory of a victim of the 2017 London Bridge and Borough Market terrorist attack says the eight people who lost their lives that night were in everyone’s thoughts throughout the journey.
Holly Jones (28) is stll coming to terms with cheating death in the terriying incident where three Jihadis in a van mowed down pedestrians on the bridge yards away from her before they got out and stabbed others in the market.
One of the eight people killed was 21-year-old Australian au pair, Sara Zelenak, whose parents, Mark and Julie, are setting up holistic healing centres to support people suffering traumatic grief as a result of a sudden or violent death.
They took part in the cycle to Paris with Holly and around 40 others, including many with a personal connection to the terrorist attack, to raise money for the centres.
Before setting off from Borough Market, they all laid roses at the spot where Sara was murdered and Holly was hugged by Christine Delcros, a French woman whose boyfriend, Xavier Thomas, was killed in the incident on the bridge and who has since become a close friend.
Holly, who grew up in Melton and whose family live in Scalford, said: “It was a highly emotional ride, we continually spoke about the victims and people shared their memories.
“It’s important to keep the memory alive of those eight people that died so that they didn’t die in vain.
“It also sends the message to extremists and terrorists that they will never win.
“When they did this they tried to divide us – but it didn’t work, it did the opposite – we are all united in grief but creating something positive from tragedy.”
She added: “Before we set off, Mark and Julie gave a speech and it was incredibly moving.
“I found myself getting quite upset at that point and many people were in tears.
“I’ve come a long way but it definitely still affects me that night.”
Holly, who is now a BBC journalist based in London, cycled to Paris alongside boyfriend, Conor Turner, and many people who had not previously met.
She said there were big characters who helped people relax in each other’s company, including an Australian man who wore bright pink clothing and pedalled with a large inflatable dinosaur on his back.
“A rider that really stuck out was a lady called Averill from Sydney,” said Holly.
“She didn’t know anyone on the ride, but saw it advertised on Australian TV and wanted to get involved.
“She lost her 24-year-old, only son, a month before the terror attack to a brain aneurism, and she was so positive and inspirational.
“Everyone riding was doing it for a reason and the atmosphere was electric.”
The group cycled to the south coast before crossing the channel for the French part of the journey. Holly said the hardest part was between East Grinstead and Brighton, with a huge hill, Ditching Beacon, needing to be negotiated.
She added: “At the end of day one and beginning of day two I was very saddle sore, but after a few hours in on day two I forgot about it and didn’t notice it for the rest of the trip – you get used to the pain.
“At the end of day two I hadn’t eaten enough carbohydrates, and I was completely exhausted, I could hardly string a sentence together, but after food I was fine.
“In general, though, I absolutely loved doing it – I was so scared and nervous about it to begin with but after day one I was completely buzzing.”
It took Holly and the group three days to reach the Eiffel Tower.
The total raised so far for the Sarz Sanctuaries - named after Sara’s affectionate nickname - is $123,000 Australian, with Holly raising $7,381 on her own.
The cycle fundraiser is named ‘Meet You In Paris’ because Sara was due to meet up with her parents in the French capital a few weeks after the day she died.
Go to meetyouinparis.everydayhero.com/au/holly to sponsor Holly.