Monday, August 01, 2005

Smoke lingers

It's funny this, being a 'bomb survivor'. I'm up and down with it. Sometimes I wish everyone would just shut up about it. I feel like it is defining me. That my BBC diary has become something so much bigger than me and that week, those events, and how I felt and acted, how I stumbled through them, has taken on this 'defining moment of my life' status. And I don't want it to.

At the same time, I feel haunted by it. Today, more so than I have for several days, I could not get away from the bomb. I kept remembering the exact taste and texture of the smoke, the smell and how gritty and heavy it felt as I breathed it in, how my chest and lungs felt like a vacuum cleaner bag of grit and dust and crap.

I'm smoking cigarettes. So are most of the other survivors I met. Even the ones who didn't smoke before are smoking. Breathing in the smoke, drawing it into our lungs; it feels like a blessed cleansing compared to the filth that we choked down when we were in the tunnel.

The explosion bang is coming back too; not as a flashback exactly, but as a strong memory of a feeling. How it felt to be punched in the ears by it. It is as if I have to re-run the whole episode many times to make sense of it, now that the initial shock and the euphoria have faded, which seem to have been cushioning me from experiencing it before. It is as if I have to feel it properly, fully, whilst my body reactions are set on 'ordinary' rather than 'shocked' . I need to somehow integrate it into all the other memories I have. Then I can put it to one side. But at the moment, it is very raw. It has taken me three weeks to even allow myself to consider it without mentally flinching and pushing it away.

Being on my own all day today and most of yesterday have made me think too much, I think, but then perhaps I need the time to consider it, when I'm not at work. On Friday I watched the news complulsively all day, as the bombers were captured on live TV. I posted updates on urban 75 as the news was breaking. It was wonderful that they were caught, and so quickly; I hope that it helps them work out who is masterminding, funding this, where the others are, how many more are ready to walk amongst us with hate in their hearts and a bomb on their backs. On Friday I was high with pleasure and relief that they were captured. I felt safer.

But today I fear that there are many more waiting, and the fear is back. One of the men arrested said he 'didn't know the 7/7 was going to happen', and 'was nothing to do with the Pakistanis', but took the attack as his cue for his attempt. I don't know, he may be lying.

But the fact that 4 young men bombed my train to work 3 weeks ago - and then 5 more attempted to bomb us again, including my route home - one week ago - and 2 of them were living and making bombs in New Southgate, three miles away - and it seems most of them were going to Finsbury Park Mosque, at the end of my road - does not inspire me with confidence.
At all. Where next? When? How soon?

Despite all this I got on a bus today. My first bus since 7/7. Stared at everyone on it, of course. Re-ran the sound of the bang of a bomb in my head all the way there.

Couldn't face it coming back. Walked home in the rain for 2 miles instead.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Really can't think of much to say in response to your post but I hope the support of another anonymous Londoner is worth something.

Take care of yourself

August 01, 2005 10:03 pm  
Blogger Rachel said...

Thank you, sx.

It is. Worth lots.


August 01, 2005 11:53 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really want to say thank you for your diary on the BBC and how pleased I was to see you're continuing it. While most of London seems to have moved on, it's reassuring to know that, sadly, there are others who can't.

My line manager, and friend, died on the bus. We'd been winding him up for days that he was really about to be 30 and not 29, in the end he reached neither, he died aged 28.

I've become slightly obsessed with knowing what it was like on that bus, reading witness accounts, even though we can be fairly certain that he would have known nothing of what was going on. And I feel that guilt of still being here, questioning why I didn't hear my phone when he called to let me know he was going to be late and why when I got his message I didn't call him back... anything that would have delayed him so he didn't get on that bus. But I think we have to try to accept it, however hard that is. Because nothing any of us could have done would change the fact that we are here and others are not. On that day, only four people had that power.

I sat upstairs on the bus for the first time since the 7th last night, rather than hovering nervously near the doors in case I see someone I don't feel comfortable around so I can jump off. I was proud of myself. I read somewhere recently that bravery is doing things that scare you and not just not being scared. Bit fed up of having to be brave but I suppose until the world changes again we will have to be.

I really do wish you well. I miss my friend an awful lot but know he'd want us all to live as well as we can.

Kind regards,
H x

August 02, 2005 3:24 pm  
Blogger Rachel said...

Dear H

I'm so sorry to hear about your friend, and my thoughts are with you as you grieve.

The Family Assistance Centre in Victoria is still there if you want any one at your side as we move through these difficult times after 7/7. (It is not just for injured victims but for all affected including family, friends, colleagues of those involved.)

I will light a candle on 7/8 and I will think of you, and of all my fellow passengers and all of those, like your friend, who did not finish their journey.

Take care of yourself. You are being brave. It is feeling fearful and down hearted and carrying on anyway; that is what bravery is and that is something that I have been proud to witness over and over and over again, these last few weeks.


August 03, 2005 12:02 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


You are truly amazing and a real inspiration. I was in London on 7th and got 'stuck' on a tube for a while, a friend of mine sadly lost his life on the Picadilly line. I'm due to come to London again for a meeting tomorrow and confess I am a little nervous but have arranged to travel with other friends. Had it not been for reading your diary and hearing of your bravery - and that of all the others who have posted comments, I think I would be finding tomorrow a lot harder - your all fantastic.

To quote a well known phrase 'can you feel the love in the room?' - the spirit of Londoners will not be defeated - adversity serves to make us stronger and more united.

Hope you have a fantastic holiday.

Jo. x

August 03, 2005 4:03 pm  

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