A Borders man caught up in the horrific events in Tunisia last week has returned home safely, but not before ensuring many others were able to escape the mayhem.
Rob Chisholm, 36, from Tweedbank, was on holiday last Friday with his sister, Helen Dick from Galashiels, and parents Marjie and Alan Dick when a gunman, student Seifeddine Rezgui, opened fire on tourists at a beach close to his hotel.
Rob, who suffers from ADHD and was unable to take his Ritalin medication on holiday, said that his heightened perception of events allowed him to take in more details of events leading up to the massacre, and led to his subsequent debriefing by Special Branch police on his return home.
Shaken Rob said that just before the attack happened, the feeling in the resort was eerie.
He told us: “I had gone to the port to get exit stamps for several people at the resort. There were armed police officers at the private hotels, which was strange.
“It was a horrible, still atmosphere. The shopkeepers were not out – whereas they are always standing outside their shops, with a warm welcome and the usual craic.
“But there was none of that. My mum and Helen were out shopping in the morning and the shopkeepers were throwing fags at them, giving them stuff for free, saying ‘you go home now.’
“My mum and dad went off to the marina to get lunch and they were sat right at the point where the gunman alighted from his boat.
“I was sitting by the pool and had ordered a burger and chips and that was when the phones started to go.
“I looked round and there was a woman from Sheffield. She was in tears and she started screaming, ‘Rob, there’s something happened at the hotel, there’s been an attack’.
“The waiter told me it was at the marina and that I had to go.
“I went flying out of the resort to go and get them and luckily they were on their way back and had no idea what was going on.”
Rob said some of the travel companies caused mass hysteria with their handling of the situation.
He said: “I’ve been a rep before, and I know what to do, so I kind of kicked into autopilot.
“I logged their details and spent my time getting people on emergency flights out.
“I was speaking to everyone, in Dutch, German and Spanish, because nobody had told the foreign nationals what to do.
“I have had emails from the people I helped and their families, as well as a thank you from Thomas Cook for everything I did, but I don’t think it was anything special.
“The airport was absolute chaos. They were turning people away because they hadn’t bought visas, and they had turned off communication channels.”
Rob didn’t personally know anyone who died in Sousse.
But he said: “My mum knew two of the victims, Ann and Jim McQuire from Cumbernauld, but didn’t find out until she got back. She didn’t even know they were there.
“Mum has been treated for shock, it’s not been easy for her or dad.”
The family was finally able to fly home on Sunday, but on arrival at Newcastle, Rob was shepherded off the plane ahead of the other passengers.
He said: “I jokingly said I had too much duty free to make light of it, but I had no idea what this was about.
“It turns out it was the special branch of the police who found out what I had been doing, and wanted to talk to me about what I saw before the shooting.
“It was surreal.”