Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Drinks in the garden with a survivor from the bombed train

Mark and his wife Sarah came round tonight, strangers who are neighbours who are now friends, because we are survivors of the bomb.
John and I poured wine and we four sat in the scented garden and listened and talked with the instant confidence of shared experience.
"Where were you? So the bomb was there? Do you remember this face, that sound, what did you do when you heard the driver, did you break the window?
"Did you know it was a bomb? Did you think we were going to suffocate in a fire? Did you think we were going to die?"
Neither Mark nor I had cried properly yet. Both of us very badly needed to hear from someone else in the same carriage, with the same experience.
Both of us spoke of the flashes of shocked memory, the guilt, the elation, the desperate trying to make sense of the senseless. The incomprehensible fact that we were both still here.
Sarah and John talked too, of the worry and fear, the relief and anxiety, the happiness held to the heart, despite the realisation of the damage done to other homes, other families, as the missing never came home.
All of us felt as if we had come on a long journey together by the end of the evening.
Mark told me and John of how he had faced his fears since and boarded the Tube with Sarah at his side.
I realised I had seen him on TV and told him how his determination to "get back in the saddle" had inspired me to get back to work.
He confided how hard it had been, how he, like so many other commuters now dreaded the bang of brakes, the slowing down in a tunnel, the crowding in of bodies, the lack of air.
I thought of the journey by Tube I intended to make tomorrow, and how frightened I felt at the thought.
John had told me how afraid he had felt this morning.
I looked around the table at the four of us, and I thought of Thursday 7 July.
I said I was determined to look into the faces of my fellow travellers tomorrow. Something Tube travellers never do.
As we left the station, I would be thinking, like everyone else in the carriage, of a bang, a cloud of smoke.
Of whether the face opposite me would be the face that looked into my eyes and held my hand if the unimaginable happened. Of whether the stranger on the train would be the guide in the panic and the voice in the dark.
If these bombs make us realise that we are all fellow travellers, that we all need each other and can rely on each other, then something very good will come out of all of this.
I was going to listen to music tonight, something I haven't been able to do since Thursday. But I'm still not quite ready. I can feel the tears there, ready to fall. I am going to light a candle instead. For those who didn't come home.
I am so glad to have talked to someone who was there. It has really, really helped.


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