A wee forearm smash would sort it out

Sunday, September 3rd, 2017

Ten years ago, Stephen Clarkson found himself in the middle of the Glasgow Airport terror attack:

I was at the airport, picking up my brother, sister-in-law and niece from holiday. As I walked through the terminal, I noticed people being ushered out the way I’d come in. I wasn’t sure what was going on – there was no panic – but I thought that if something had happened, I wasn’t leaving without my family.

I carried on walking in the opposite direction to everyone else. By the time I got to the doors at the other end, I was on my own. I walked outside, and that’s when I saw a burning jeep crashed into the building. There was a guy lying next to it engulfed in flames, a couple of police officers, and parts of the road were on fire, too.

At first, I thought it had been an accident. A police officer used a fire extinguisher on the burning guy, then they turned away. I thought he was dead, and maybe they did, too. It was when he got up that I realised he was an attacker. It was eerie – he didn’t even groan as he stood; it was as if being on fire hadn’t affected him. I learned later he was on morphine.

He tried to get to the jeep’s boot – apparently, it was full of petrol bombs. The police were trying to stop him, but he kept kicking at their legs. As they fought, they moved towards me. One of the officers used pepper spray, and my eyes were streaming. The next time I opened them, this lunatic was coming in my direction.

When you’re involved in something like that, it’s hard to remember afterwards exactly how it went. You just act on instinct. My partner, Gillian, had recently passed away, after battling cancer. I had watched her fight like hell to survive, and these characters were trying to take people’s lives as if they meant nothing. It enraged me, as did having pepper spray in my eyes, to be honest. So I went for him.

As soon as I hit him, I knew that he was going down. I don’t mean to sound blasé. He’d been doing these commando-style moves to fight off the police, and he seemed well trained, but I grew up in Glasgow: it seemed natural to me that a wee forearm smash would sort it out. I’m not a street fighter, but I know how to look after myself.

I threw my full weight into it. My arm and shoulder met his chest and he clattered down. I stood on his legs while the police cuffed him. One officer shouted at me, “Who are you? Get out of here.” That annoyed me. Who am I? I’m the one who’s just put him on his backside.

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