Clare Harvey was having breakfast with her husband and two children in the Kingsbury Hotel in Colombo on Easter Sunday, the last day of the family holiday until just a few seconds before a suicide bomber attacked the restaurant.
“The children just wanted to go swimming so we said ‘OK’ and got into the lift,” Harvey told Euronews. “When we reached the eighth floor we head the noise of an explosion and the lift just jumped. I thought it was broken or going to drop.”
In the chaos that followed, the family had little idea of what had happened until, following instructions to evacuate the building, they reached the lobby next to the restaurant where they had been sitting.
“When you opened the lift doors, you could see all the glass had gone, it was all over the floor and bits of blood and smoke,” she said.
Had they stayed at their table for two minutes more, as she and her husband would have liked, they would have experienced the explosion first-hand.
For the next few hours, as the devastating extent of the attack began to emerge, the family moved from cafes and hotels trying to find somewhere that felt safe.
“We just felt a bit numb, not sure what to do… We didn’t know where was safe to be.”
With their luggage inaccessible in their hotel room, the family returned home on their scheduled flight later that same day with only what they were carrying when they left the hotel early in the afternoon.
Harvey, who lives in Harpenden, north of London, says that while the scars from what they saw and experienced will remain with them, the family are just grateful to have got home safely: “Thank God for moaning children.”