Friday, March 31, 2006


Slept most of the day. No energy at all, none, not even to make a cup of tea. Dozens of emails to answer, piles of admin to do. Couldn't face it, slumped and sucker-punched by tiredness that is bone-deep and heart-felt. I feel very old. The cat has dozed by my bedside all day; sleeping for fifteen hours is normal for her. I have not had the dream since I wrote it down and shared it here. Perhaps that is why I am suddenly so greedy for sleep; I am no longer afraid to dream.

What Holly said...

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Security 'not at fault' on 7th July


''They did not look carefully enough at the sort of people who might be tempted into becoming terrorists''

Professor Anthony Glees, Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies.

'Counter-terrorism officials say lead bomber Mohammed Sidique Khan, who prior to 7 July was suspected of petty fraud and not terrorism, was considered a low priority to whom it was not worth diverting resources. ' ( BBC)


Since when did M15 bug 'low priorities?' For months?

'They are not pointing the finger of blame at anybody'
Frank Gardner BBC security correspondent

It's not about blame.

It's about saving lives.

More on ''the unprecedented threat''

UPDATE: More about this report on the BBC World Service Newshour


''I don't think it's fair to say: 'It's ok, don't worry, nobody is to
blame, there were no failures of intelligence...' Because it strikes me that if
you had this mass-murderer in your sights, and you let him go on to kill people,
then there has been a failure of intelligence.''

By the 10pm news, on BBC1 ( featuring fellow KCU member Kirsty!), the fact that Khan had been bugged, then let go, going on to suicide-bomb people, was the main story, with the emphasis subtly changed from 'M15 not to blame' to 'M15 taken off bombers trail'. And that he had consorted with *other terrorists who were deemed a more imminent threat. And Frank Gardner, the BBC Security correspondent said it was a compelling case for a public/independent inquiry. As did Patrick Mercer of the Opposition.

*There will be more on the implications of this later...

I wonder when this trial ( codenamed' Operation Crevice') will conclude? And what will happen when it does? Quite a lot, I should imagine. Meanwhile...

UPDATE 2: ( 31/3/06)

The Times 'M15 facing criticism over surveillance of 7/7 bomber'

The Independent 'July 7 leader slipped out of intelligence net'



Sunday, March 26, 2006

Time for a break

I'm off to see my parents soon, and I'll be resting up and not blogging for a bit. Yesterday, when things finally started to happen for survivors, and Friday when Matthew Norman in the Independent came out in support of my dad, gave me a huge boost.

I am really, really proud of how we are all making a difference and people's voices are being heard. Thank you to my fellow passengers, and thank you to my friends and readers and to all the people who have supported me. Lots of you have told me to take a break, and I intend to, now.

I feel that I can stop, because finally we have finally got somewhere and all this effort is now having results...

My dad has had an apology from the Home Secretary, and we are meeting him about why no 7/7 Public Enquiry
At last, *many of us survivors have had a letter with expressions of 'heartfelt sympathy' from the Secretary of State, and a survivor meeting to ask questions ( *if you were on the bombed trains or bus on 7/7 and have heard nothing and want to go to the meeting with the Secretary of State, contact the 7 July Assistance Centre 0845 054 7444)
5 key actions (following the survivor testimony) from the Met police,
Lots of media coverage and hopefully, therefore, more understanding of the plight of the silent thousands with PTSD and no help following 7/7.

At last I feel like I can stop. Breathe. Time out to recover. Back blogging soon, I hope, but for now...

Good night, and good luck.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Well done Tessa Jowell

Today I got a letter from Tessa Jowell, who is the Minister with responsibilty for the aftercare of those involved in disasters! It was sent to all survivors on the 7th July Assistance Centre list.

Some people in Kings Cross United also got the letter, though not all of us. But Steve from KCU scanned it in and sent it round our private email system, so all those KCU survivors who are not on the Department of Culture, Media and Sport official survivor list at the present time could see it too, because in KCU we share information with each other.

In the letter Ms. Jowell expresses her 'heartfelt sympathy for you and all those who were caught up in the attacks on 7 July.'

She writes that she held a series of private meetings with the bereaved at around the time of the November 1st St. Paul's memorial service, and 'would like to extend a similar invitation to you as survivors.'
She acknowledges that 'the events on that day led to the loss of 52 innocent lives and resulted in physical injury for hundreds of people. A greater number again witnessed or were directly involved in the incidents and bear less visible scars from that day.'

She offers to meet us survivors in 4 seperate meetings ( one for each bombsite) , and answer questions, 'where possible' about the support provided by Government or to relay the question to the appropriate Government contact following the meeting. She says that the meetings will provide the Metropolitan Police with an opportunity to provide a progress update about the investigation. That staff from the 7 July Assistance Centre have also agreed to be present. And after the meeting, 'we will share a note of the discussion with you.'

Well. What a pleasant surprise! It's a rather good letter.

It is interesting that it took eight months to arrive.But it is just exactly what I have been saying I was hoping to hear! Isn't that just amazing?

The letter was dated 22 March, the very day before the enquiry evidence in which 13 survivors including myself made some important points in public . Points I had already placed on my blog, in the early morning of the 23rd, just before I went to the enquiry.

(I left the flat at 8.40am on 23 March to give testimony, publishing my notes at 7.06am)

I said stuff like this:

''I have worked out that I gave my details out eleven times at least, possibly more, but by 24th October I was still, apparently, not on an official Department of Culture Media and Sport list of survivors, and nor were many other passengers. This is staggeringly incompetent:

I and other people managed to climb out of a bombed train, find each other, look after each other, and now we have almost 100 survivors' names and details.We have executed a successful media strategy to tell people from our train that Kings Cross United exists, helped each other find counsellors, fill in compensation forms, find lawyers, medical help, dealt with hundreds of media enquiries,safeguarded ourselves from nutters and wierdoes trying to infiltrate the group,organised a 6 month memorial ceremony, set up a website, campaigned for a public enqury, liased with the police, all whilst holding down a day job and recovering from injuries and PTSD. And nobody has given us any funding: we haven't asked for it we did it all by ourselves, for free.

Meanwhile someone, somewhere has a salary or a grant and a job decription that is about looking after victims of July 7th. I'd like to know what they are bloody well doing, frankly.''

Here is an excerpt from the entry I wrote on 22 March, at 9.26am - the 22 March being of course the day the letter from the DCMS is dated:

''I feel fragile and sick and sad, so sad. And so angry; angry with those who let the bombs happen, angry with the political capital made out of the bombs, angry that though the Government talks of their 'concern' for victims and families and passes draconian laws citing how 'we' need them,

yet I have never heard of one member of Parliament visiting or writingto a victim of July 7th to ask how they are and to express sympathy.(And if you are a victim of terrorism abroad, you are lefteven more hung out to dry.)''

I'm extremely pleased by this fortuitous, and no doubt entirely coincidental official, yet personal response to the exact points I raised on the 22 and 23 March in this blog, the exact points that I and the other survivors raised in a public meeting, attended by Whitehall officials and the media on 23 March, being answered in the letter I and other survivors got today. It is, as I said, a complete - yet of course, welcome - surprise!

Well, well, well. I am personally extremely grateful to the Minister for getting in touch today and expressing sympathy - what a very, very, very good thing to have done after all these months - it has so much meaning for me. I shall certainly go to the meeting, and judging by the messages flying round KCU, so will a lot of other passengers - whether they actually got the letter or not.

Well done, Tessa Jowell!

London Assembly 7 July Review Committee

The London Assembly 7th July Review Committee Scrutiny Meeting on Thursday 23rd March was a long, hard, painful day, but, it seems, an already-worthwhile one ( see ''Well Done Tessa Jowell!'').

I am so proud of my fellow passengers - especially those who spoke and those who watched from the auditorium, those who watched online and those who sent messages of support to the speakers, and those who are writing their testimony. I am so proud of us all, proud of all the survivors I have ever met, the bereaved people I have spoken to and email with, all the LU staff and the British transport police, doctors, nurses, hospital staff, ambulance staff, police officers, those people who helped, those people who said '' I was just doing my job'' on July 7th, when they went far, far above what anyone should be expected to do on a summer Thursday morning.

I hope that the testimony of the survivors of that day will help in a postitive way. I hope people will learn, that funding and training and information-sharing and better communication will happen immediately, and wherever it is needed.

I would like to thank Richard, the Chair, Sally, Deputy Chair, Janet and Dale the Scrutiny staff and the rest of the staff at the GLA who were absolute stars and managed the day beautifully with compassion and professionalism: as well as being professional they were also immensely kind and human and protective. It felt like they were on our side. They made a tough day better than bearable; they made it feel like it made a difference.

There has been the inevitable flurry of media interest, but thank you to the media representatives too who have contacted me, because you have all been polite and not demanding, and have been understanding of the cost of that day, and the need for privacy afterwards. Some media representatives said they found the day challenging and personally moving to sit through.

Thank you.

UPDATE: The testimony I gave on the day, and the reports of my fellow passengers cabn befound here

The webcast of those 13 of us who gave testimony in public can be found here. The transcript will be on the website soon, and meanwhile otjer survivors and bereaved are giving further evidence privately. The report will be published at the end of May.

Dark dreams

It is a sunny morning and I am blogging and answering emails whilst my hair dries. I have been signed off work with exhaustion and bronchitis, so I now have a period of quiet time to look forward to, which is a great relief. I am still not sleeping very well, but I expect if I practice not stressing and try to take steps back from it all this may improve. Things run round in my head, and of course the more tired you get, the harder it is to concentrate and the more anxious you feel. I have felt recently that I have been letting myself and everyone down which is silly when I think about it, I have done a lot, it is just that however much I do, there always seems to be more and more piling up. I had the dream again last night. This dream keeps coming back to me, I have it about twice a week. It makes me afraid to sleep, sometimes.

I told my psychologist about it, and she gave me some ideas for how to take control of the dream. I also think perhaps writing it down might make it go away. So here goes.

I wake up and it is dark. The flat is full of evil and darkness. It is like a black smoke or fog that blots out all familar surroundings. The walls, the floor, have all disappeared, there is only the blackness, which is more than blackness, it has a presence and an intelligence and it wants to smother me and pour into me, penetrate me, my eyes, my nose, my throat, everywhere. Only the bed is there. I turn and reach for J, but he is gone.

I want to stay under the white covers, where the evil dark cannot get me, but then I hear screaming. Terrible, endless, agonised screaming. It is coming from the sitting room. I know that I must go and see what it is. I get out of bed and I am filled with foreboding. I press my mouth together to stop the black smoke getting into it. I wander down the hall, disorientated, reaching for solid surfaces to guide me, which are not there. In the sitting room, J and I have a very large aquarium with two koi carp and five goldfish, which we have looked after for seven years. I am very fond of the beautiful golden fish, who eat from our fingers each morning. The water has drained out of the aquarium and the fish are lying and writhing on the gravel floor, in about two inches of water, and they are screaming and screaming and writhing and helpless. I run to the sink and look frantically for a bucket to fill. There is no bucket, no water in the tap, I cannot help them. The fish scream and scream, and I think about whether I can carry them in my hands to a neighbour's house, and put them in the bath or sink there, and save them, but I have no way to carry them, I will drop them, they will die. The black is suffocating me, now I am going to die too. I am alone. J is not there. Where is he? I must find him, and leave the fish. I force myself to leave the screaming, flapping fish and I try to find the door to get out. Sometimes I find the door and I am crying. Sometimes I start to scream myself, and the smoke-stuff chokes me, and I die.

Then I wake up. If I find the door, I wake up almost crying. If I don't find the door, I wake up covered in sweat and about to shout out for help.

I feel cold just typing that. My psychologist told me to imagine, before I go to bed, a torch by my bedside, to dispel the dark, a bucket full of water, ready by the aquarium, to rescue the fish, keys in the door, to escape from the house, J by my side, to help me. Maybe tonight I will actually put a real torch by the bed, a real bucket of water in the kitchen, leave the keys by the door. J will think I am mad, but I will explain, and maybe tonight I will break the dream.

I know what the dream is about: the tunnel, the train, the morning of 7th July. I was told that if you tell a dream, it breaks and dissipates and loses its power. So, goodbye dream, off you go across the internet, time to leave me in peace. Over and out, and thank you for reading and helping me break my dream. I will let you know if it returns.

And if it goes away, it will be another victory for the power of blogging!

Friday, March 24, 2006

Couldn't agree more...

...with Tim ( a must-read)
...with Justin ( ditto)
And this had me clutching my aching sides. Matthew Norman in today's Independent p.45 ) - pay 70p today or a quid online, and yes, it is worth every shekel). I am still feeling ill as anything, but my God, this cheered me up. Thank you.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Ready to speak out

I have been up since 5.15am going through all my box files, looking for evidence of when I was in contact with anyone official so I can present this information to the 7 July Review Committee today. They especially want to know about communication.

I am only going to talk about my own experience, not anyone else's even though I know a lot of other people's stories, because I want the testimony to be calm, taken seriously and non-emotive. Just the facts, backed up by evidence where possible.

I got to sleep at 1.30am. I couldn't lie down without coughing. This is the third serious chest infection since July 7th. I have antibiotics for it, again.

Somebody let off fireworks at around midnight. They sounded like bombs. I had a panic reaction and it was very hard to get to sleep after that. J was at work until 2am.
I feel wretched now, after so little sleep, and I can hardly speak without coughing; it is going to be hard giving evidence. But I am going to do it: I will get some codeine linctus to suppress my cough.

I have worked out that I gave my details out eleven times at least, possibly more, but by 24th October I was still, apparently, not on an official Department of Culture Media and Sport list of survivors, and nor were many other passengers. This is staggeringly incompetent: I and other people managed to climb out of a bombed train, find each other, look after each other, and now we have almost 100 survivors' names and details.We have executed a successful media strategy to tell people from our train that Kings Cross United exists, helped each other find counsellors, fill in compensation forms, find lawyers, medical help, dealt with hundreds of media enquiries, safeguarded ourselves from nutters and wierdoes trying to infiltrate the group, organised a 6 month memorial ceremony, set up a website, campaigned for a public enqury, liased with the police, all whilst holding down a day job and recovering from injuries and PTSD. And nobody has given us any funding: we haven't asked for it we did it all by ourselves, for free. Meanwhile someone, somewhere has a salary or a grant and a job decription that is about looking after victims of July 7th. I'd like to know what they are bloody well doing, frankly.

In haste, from my notes...

7 July: Gave name, address, brief statement to police at UCH hospital, had photo taken by police, got forensic bag for clothes at hospital.
9 July: Gave details to police hotline and brief statement when it came out on the news that the bomb was where I was standing, by first set of double doors of carriage one. It wasn't, it was by the second set of doors of carriage one.
10 July: Gave 4 hour police statement to 2 police officers who came to my garden. Handed over my 7th July clothing for forensic examination plus diagram of where I think the bomb was. They then confirmed I was right about the bomb.
12 July: First 'official' letter, from UCH A&E manager, expressing how sorry she was, giving details for trauma clinic, ear/nose/throat clinic, Disaster Action Charity, Assist trauma Care, Samaritans, Hep. B safeguards, what to do if wounds infected. Also detailing PTSD symptoms to look out for. The A&E manager is the only person who ever tells me she is 'sorry for what happened'.
13 July: Visit GP to check stitches, eardrums, chest/lung damage
18 July: Back to GP to have stitches removed. She asks if I have been contacted about counselling. I say no. I go on the internet and look, and I call Disaster Action, the charity recommended by the hospital. The volunteer is helpful and kind and tells me not to expect much from the authorities; how they and other survivors of disasters set up their own groups after tragedies like Hillsborough and the Marchioness Disaster. I tell her I am already in contact with other survivors and we are doing our best to look after each other.
19 July: Letter from charity Disaster Action with details of their website, and they tell me about the *Family Assistance Centre in Victoria. The name has previously confused me and other survivors; we think it is for families of the dead. ( Name is later changed to 7 July Assistance Centre and run by Department of Culture, Media, & Sport).
28 July: Visit Family Assistance centre with another survivor, having phoned ahead and left details. See a counsellor, from Victim Support, and leave details again. Also leave details with Red Cross.
By now I am in contact with ten other survivors: we have found each other through my writing on the internet. We have been to the Vigil, a week after the bombs, called, emailed and arranged to meet up. We meet at the end of July, one survivor, Jane sets up a website for us, we start a book of names and addresses and emails and make a plan of where we were all sitting or standing on the train when it was bombed. We start to share information. We call ourselves 'Kings Cross United'.

21 August: Find out about London Recovers, a website set up by another survivor from Edgware Rd. Leave details there.
23 August: Go down with severe chest infection and am put on antibiotics. GP is not sure of the cause, it is a hot summer. Could it be the toxic smoke I inhaled? I am sure that it is. I have read reports of asbestos and toxins in the fume-choked tunnels where we were trapped. I go on the internet and find out about the Health Protection Agency, a Government-run body charged with monitoring the health of survivors. I explain that we breathed in smoke possibly containing asbestos according to newspaper reports of those who went into the tunnel to recover bodies. Can someone check us out? Leave my details again and say I am in contact with 30 survivors, please get back to us. Call 7 July Assistance centre for a chat, leave details. Leave details again 2 weeks later.
26 September: After chasing *HPA, forms arrive and are circulated round group to fill in. NHS Trauma response also gets in touch with more forms. I and other KCU members fill them in.

Call 7 July Assistance centre for a chat. Leave details again.
(*I do not hear back from the HPA. I chase them in November, when I have yet another bad cough. Nothing - then they mysteriously send me another blank form to fill in, in December.)

October: Read in news that a Memorial service for the London bombings victims is to be held in St. Pauls. Call St Pauls, who say that the DCMS are organising it. Call the DCMS. Ask if survivors can attend. No, it is for VIPs. Then, yes, but they don't have our details. I send over mine and twenty other survivor's details to a helpful lady called Emma. Tickets are sent out.

November week 2: Some people who attended service are sent a letter and a tape of the service, I and others don't receive anything. How is this possible? This is very odd. They have, after all, just sent out 20 tickets to us and have all of our details.

December: Call 7th July centre for a chat. In an unguarded moment a member of staff tells me they had no funding over the summer, then in September the DCMS gave them funding for another year. The name change from ''Family Assistance Centre'' to 7 July Assistance Centre meant that they could not use the original database ''because of the data protection act''. So all the people who got in touch straight after the bombs and gave their details no longer exist and have presumably been left in the dark without help once more.
I get fed up. And now we hear there is no public enquiry. With this level of incompetence I can quite see why. I am asked to write an article for the Sunday Times. I talk to tube staff and other surivors about their thoughts and am disgusted, and I write the article.

Here is the article 'The July 7th questions that still haunt victims''.

And now I am off to tell everyone this stuff again. There are many reasons why a public enquiry would be a good idea and today, in this post, I have briefly touched upon a few of them today - the communication problems.

From the moment the bomb went off, it has been chaotic. I walked with thirty or so other survivors from the hell hole of the bombed carriage down the smoky narrow tracks in the dark tunnel to Russell Square, led by Ray, a brave co-driver of the train whilst his equally heroic colleague, Tom, stayed in the carriage and tried to help the injured. Other LU staff from Russell Square ran into the tunnel, despite not knowing if there were secondary devices or toxins or fire, and used their clothes, belts, hands to stem the bleeding of the maimed. From Kings Cross, LU ticket staff ran into the tunnel and detrained the passengers, whilst Steve, a British transport police officer forced the door into the first carriage andwas confronted by piles of bodies and injured passengers. Meanwhile as I was walking the other way out of the tunnel, I said to the other frightened people walking with me, 'Keep going, there will be water and nurses and doctors, ambulances and helpers when we arrive, just keep going...'. And we all walked, reassuring each other, trusting that there would be help when we got out. There was none, just a white-faced LU staff member handing us water. Outside the station, where I went to look for help, there were angry commuters trying to get in, and people photographing me, with my black face and bloodied stinking clothes, and a Japanese man filming the scene. An off-duty nurse called Anna tried to help me, I asked her to go and help the injured inside the station. Someone called an ambulance. It was 9.18am. I looked at the bone poking out of my wrist, the glass and metal embedded in the bone, and I called a friend to get me in a cab. The cab arrived at 9.40am. I tried to get others to come in the cab with me, but they did not hear me. Many people had blood coming out of their ears; they were deaf, like me, from the blast which had gone off in the middle of our carriage. Passengers stayed at Russell Square, in shock, whilst the injured were carried from the bombed train. Station staff, passers by, and blasted passengers tried to help them. I feel guilty to this day that I did not. The grille doors of the station closed behind me. I got in the cab, and almost fainted.

Ambulances did not arrive at Russell Square until almost 11am, when they arrived they didn't have the right equipment, because they had been to the other bombsites first. Some were driven by volunteer crews from Essex. They did not have radios which worked when they were out of the vehicles, and their mobile phones did not work. University College hospital is 6 minutes away.

I stepped through the doors of UCH and said there had been a bomb. I was one of the first to arrive. They got the glass out of my wrist, sewed it up, made me stay. I didn't want to stay, I knew they would need all the staff they had for the injuries coming later. Half an hour later, more bloodied people arrived. A man was screaming that his leg was gone. I looked, he was naked from the waist and his leg looked like raw meat.

When I got home ( walked with J, then was picked up by a friend at 6pm from Camden), I wrote my story of the 7 July, missing out all the horrible details ( and I still to this day censor what I saw) - on the net. Other survivors got in touch. We emailed, talked, went to the pub and we looked after each other. There are a hundred of us now. We still email, still talk, still go to the pub; we still look after each other.

We passengers have helped each other since the minute the bomb went off. When is someone going to take responsibility for helping us?

Right. Off to the meeting....

'Today Someone Finally Listened'- Fellow-passenger Holly
'Today at the London Assembly' - Fellow Passenger Hamish
'Anger' - Fellow passenger Bumblebee
'Swirlyhead' - Fellow passenger Mitch
Thank you Justin and Curious Hamster , Londonist, Tim, Davide, Geoff, and also everyone who has signed the petition started by 7/7/05 survivors for a Public Enquiry ( click here if you want to sign - it is for anyone who wants to add their voice to the demands for answers)

This is local London report
BBC report
Sky news video
Channel 4 news

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated...

The Sun has a rather odd story, which Davide has pointed out to me...

''Clarke fails us
CHARLES Clarke is getting away with murder.
The Home Secretary is willing to insult the bereaved dad of a 7/7 bomb victim, but he won’t lift a politically-correct finger to protect us against killers.
On his watch, police are slow to arrest, prosecutors won’t charge, and judges won’t jail villains.
Even when a rapist or murderer is locked up, he is out again after serving half his time...''

Hum. I can assure you that I am in fact, alive, though not very well. I have a croaky voice and a bad cough and a high temperature. Perhaps someone has tried to prevent me from giving testimony at the London Assembly 7 July Review Committee hearing tomorow by maliciously sneezing on me? But their dastardly plot has failed: I and other survivors will be speaking out, nothing will stop us, just bring on the Lemsip Extra...

And I am writing my testimony now. It is hard going. But if I can do anything to help save a life, or spare future suffering, or even just get those in charge of responses to atrocities and aftermaths of terrorism to up their game a bit, then it will be worth it.

P.S: Note to anyone from the media reading this *( and I have had 5 calls already today) : Sorry. No, we are not doing a press conference or any interviews: we're giving testimony in public, for the sake of the public, watched by the media, and 200 people. That is hard enough, that's enough. Please don't badger us, it is going to be a bloody tough day as it is, and after we have done it, we just want to go to the pub and look after ourselves and each other, privately. Thank you.

Sick and tired

Tomorrow quite a few of us are going to give evidence at the London Assembly to the July 7th Review Committee. We will travel down together and stay with each other all day. I am off work today, feeling ill. I have a streaming cold and my chest hurts when I cough, my glands are swollen. I am going to see the doctor later this afternoon, and I am going to ask for some time off work.

Most people took a lot more time off work than I did after 7th July. My way of dealing with it has been to come back to work, and to fight, fight, fight to get my life back, better than before. And rather than be crushed by the experience, to try to get something positive out of it: Kings Cross United, writing, sharing the experience with others. Recently, as I have become more tired, more stressed, I have become more angry. I have never been angry with the bombers - they are dead - and I have never met a survivor who is angry with the bombers. But I am angry and weepy.

I try to use the anger as energy. Asking for a *public enquiry ( *you can sign the petition for one here) Because we need to improve response to atrocities, aftercare, communication. There are so many July 7th questions that still haunt victims.

And, weary of endless personal attacks, I have been taking on the irritating bloody conspiracy theorists who sit and discuss me for pages and pages on their forums, wondering whether I am a counterintelligence agent, accusing me of hacking their silly websites, calling me a liar and a shill. They sit there twisting the words of survivors to make out there is some Grand Conspiracy going on, the bombs were under the trains, the Leeds 4 bombers were innocent, Israel was tipped off, it is a Zionist plot blah, blah, blah. I know they read my blog and I wish they would just piss off: few things irritate me more than armchair ghouls and their anti-semitic paranoic imaginings and their anonymous comments, which I now delete. Bring on the public enquiry, bring on the 'official narrative' even, bring on something to shut them up, please. Please. Why should I spend my time engaging with these people?*headesk*

Because there is still no official version, still no answers, so they are free to wander the internet, visit my blog and other survivors' blogs, writing lies about us. Let there be some closure, some ending, to these questions, the endless stories in the media, the endless media requests, the endless, endless shadow of July 7th. It is blighting my life. There is no escape from it. Ever. It goes on every hour of every day, and when I sleep, I am back on the train, hearing the screams.

I am absolutely bone-weary. It takes all my energy to keep going, keep at it, keep putting one foot in front of the other. I don't sleep properly. When I do sleep, I hear screaming. I am guilt-ridden because I did not stay in the tunnel, in the station with the dying, though there was nothing I could have done. My immune system is weak, I go down with every bug around. I feel fragile and sick and sad, so sad. And so angry; angry with those who let the bombs happen, angry with the political capital made out of the bombs, angry that though the Government talks of their 'concern' for victims and families and passes draconioan laws citing how 'we' need them, yet I have never heard of one member of Parliament visiting or writing to a victim of July 7th to ask how they are and to express sympathy.(And if you are a victim of terrorism abroad, you are left even more hung out to dry.)

All this stuff, this has been me trying to keep the feelings of July 7th at bay. The anger, the politics, the setting up a survivor network, the writing, the endless running to stand still. But it is not working anymore.

I still cannot listen to music without weeping. I still cannot stop and stand still without my eyes filling up with tears. Anything can set me off now; a story, a look on someone's face, a line of a poem, the sun on my face...

When I turn round and face this, properly, I think my heart will break with it and my soul will scream and not stop screaming. I have been too frightened to stop and let July 7th hit me properly; I have fought it and fought it and fought it with every trick and tool that I had.

I can't do it anymore. It is making me ill, it is no kind of a life. I just have to get through the London Assembly hearing tomorrow, then, enough.

Time out.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Let's get writing...

Ruth has written to her MP and asked about a public inquiry into 7th July. And guess what - he supports her calls and will ask for one!

Fellow-survivor Steve has also written to his MP and is hoping for a response soon.

As we can see from Charles Clarke's reponse to my father's question, and his subesequent more concilatory letter and offfer of a meeting, and his response to Dave Cross, M.Ps will respond to questions asked by their constituents. ( Most of the time).

So - let's get writing -I am sure that if many of us write, then we CAN make a difference. The questions will not go away, and so they will be answered, eventually, because it will become untenable not to. These attacks did not come out of a blue sky. After all, we are the ones who are told attacks were'' inevitable'' in March 2004, that an attack by suicide bombers was 'almost inevitable and only a matter of time' back in 2003!

And we're told there will be more attacks, but we're also also told to use the trains and buses and walk the streets. We need to know the risks we run, but far more importantly, we need to learn from the atrocity, try to understand its causes, try to learn from our response to it, so we can save lives, spare suffering in the future. That is all I want, and this is not about making cheap political points. Ambulances taking two hours to arrive? Ambulance staff not being able to communicate with their managers when out of their vehicles? All the other July 7th questions that haunt victims? We need to learn. We need and we deserve to know, dammit.
And of course, it would be helpful to understand how much was known about the radicalising effect, warned of by spooks of the pre-agreed Iraq war on young British men, how much was known about young British men leaving the U.K for Pakistan and whether they set off to train at miltant jihad camps in Pakistan , whether they returned intending to return to fight jihad in the UK, whether such camps were set up directly after and in response to the invasion of Iraq, and
what our Government knew about the risks of terror attacks in the U.K before 7th July.

And I would like to know whether the British Government's policies on Guantanomo, Abu Ghraib and other places of prisoner abuse, their position on extraordinary rendition, torture and holding detainees without charge, and whether they consider if such policies are formenting rage, feeding the anger? For terror needs anger, needs hatred to feed and to give itself the cover of a ''cause'', one that young men feel they could die for. Terror is a sickness that feeds on anger and fear. What about being tough on the causes of terror? What about truth, compassion, stepping back from this madness and violence? Does it have to be this way?

It could have been anyone on my train on 7th July morning. There were people from all over the world making that journey. Men, women, young, old, and many races and faiths and backgrounds. How many more must die in bombs, attacks of terror, here and abroad? How many more injured? What are the lessons of July 7th? Are we going to learn anything from the day suicide bombers came to London? Are our questions ever going to be answered?

Meanwhile, in Iraq, every day is July 7th now

Find your M.P if this interests you, if you have questions. And it seems many of us do.
Writetothem make sit easy - you can do it online. (Although it seems that you may have more success if you put a hard copy in the post).
Or sign the petition started by myself and signed by other survivors, and members of the public.

Get vocal, get postal, make your voice heard. What have we got to lose? And what could we, and what could truth gain?

UPDATE: Steve, fellow survivor very sensibly asks: Please can everyone...
a) be polite b) only write to their own MP c) ask sensible questions.
Otherwise it will be wasted effort.
Quite. Good point. Thanks Steve!
And thanks Davide for your latest post.

UPDATE 2: Clarke in London bomb row with cleric ( Sunday Times)
UPDATE3: Clarke apologises for attack ( Sunday Telegraph) .
UPDATE 4: Clarke belaboured by a turbulent priest ( Observer)

Forgiveness article

... the Sunday Times-commissioned article is here, underneath Mr Clarke's second letter to my father.

The F-word .

(Do I forgive Mr Clarke for upsetting to my dad? Yes, I think so. We are all going to talk to each other, that is much more constructive than seething, isn't it? And I am very touched that he wrote, personally, twice. Democracy in action! Thank you Mr. Clarke, that meant a lot.)

Charles Clarke writes to my dad again

''15th March 2006

Dear [Rachel's dad]

Thank you for your letter of 10th March.

I too regret the events at the end of the meeting in Norwich Cathedral last Friday. That is why, as you will now know, I wrote to you on Friday afternoon expressing my regret and offering you a constituent surgery appointment to discuss these matters, to which I said you would be welcome to bring your daughter if you so wished. Our letters obviously crossed in the post.

In relation to Friday, I welcome this opportunity to set the record straight. Of course I do agree that it was entirely appropriate for you to ask a direct question to me as both your Member of Parliament and Home Secretary. I do spend a lot of my time taking questions on all aspects of Government business, but in particular those matters which are my responsibility as Home Secretary and it is right that this should be the case. I am sorry you found the format of Friday's event frustrating - this was not something for which I had responsibility, although I was happy with the arrangements.

From my point of view I did attempt to respond to your question about a public enquiry into the events of 7 July but it appeared to me that you were not ready to allow me to answer the question or to say anything at all in response to your point. That was why I described your response as insulting. In those circumstances I thought it better not to continue our exchange in the cathedral but to write to you immediately afterwards offering a meeting which I did. That said, my response obviously caused offence which I regret.

You mention in your letter that you have written to me before on the issue of a public enquiry into the events of 7 July. My Norwich office has checked its files and can find no record of your correspondence. Had I recieved a letter I would have replied. Perhaps you could send me a copy of the previous correspondence if we have made an error.

I would like here, though, to respond on the substance of your point. I should perhaps emphasise that before I made my announcement at the end of last year, I gave careful consideration to the views of those who had asked the Government to establish a full public enquiry into the atrocities of 7 July. I came to the conclusion that such an enquiry would add little to our understanding of the causes of those atrocities, in particular when there are parliamentary and other enquiries underway into these and related events. Moreover, I took the view that establishing a public enquiry would divert the attention of our police and security services during a period of time when they are still actively engaged in the continuing murder investigation of 7 July and the detection and prevention of further atrocities.

However, I do accept that it is important to set out clearly an authoritative account of what happened before and around 7 July. Accordingly, the Home Office is developing such an account which we intend should be published in due course. In making final decisions on the content of the account to be published we will of course have due regard to the need not to compromise intelligence sources or put at risk possible prosecutions.

I know that many people do not agree with this conclusion, and , as I say, I am happy to discuss it with you at a constituency surgery if you wish. Howevwer I do assure you that I did consider this matter very carefully indeed.

Finally, as I said to you in my letter last Friday, I do appreciate the appalling circumstances which you and your family have had to deal with, and I express complete sympathy with you and your family in those circumstances.

You will know that your letter to me has been placed on your daughter's website. I would be perfectly happy for her to place this response there too.

Yours sincerely

Charles Clarke MP''

writetothem service, which my father used in December 2005, has a 50% reply rate for Mr Clarke, see here. Had he known this, perhaps Dad might have written and posted a letter.

Here is the communication from Dad on December 17th 2005.

My father has told me that he very much wanted an answer from Mr Clarke, so to say ''it appeared to me that you were not ready to allow me to answer the question or to say anything at all'' seems very strange indeed to me. Why ask a question if you do not want an answer ? My father was upset because his question was not answered and he was brushed aside. There was nobody else involved, just my father and Mr Clarke, so it is not as if my father was making rhetorical questions to an audience. Perhaps Mr Clarke means that because my father asked a question in a manner that was not to his liking, that he found himself unable to say anything at all in response? But it is my impression that Mr Clarke did not answer the question by choice and met the question with the accusation that my father was being insulting, a rejoinder that my father clearly found insulting. (I should myself be insulted if a reasonable question was deemed an insult.)

However, this letter seems to be to be very close to an apology, and Mr Clarke now regrets causing offence, and I am much heartened by that. I am personally very pleased and grateful that Mr Clarke has taken the time to reply, thank you Mr Clarke, it means a lot and restores some of my faith in democracy. Dad and I are now looking forward to meeting Mr Clarke and asking him about what the public can expect in the way of answers to July 7th atrocities, what investigations are being undertaken, and by whom, and with whom the fruits of such investigations shall be shared.

It remains my sincere belief that as we, the public were attacked and as we, the public have questions not only about what happened on July 7th but why it happened, our questions should be answered transparently, honestly and most of all, publicly.

For only by understanding how July 7th happened, and why it happened, can we hope to prevent such tragedy happening again.

And moreover, what happened afterwards also needs to be addressed; for there are
learnings to be had and improvements to be made in the way the aftermath was handled.

Let me stress, I ask for a public enquiry for positive reasons, not to embarrass the Government or to assign blame, but to try to get something postive out of the dreadful events of July 2005, so that lives may be spared and suffering eased in the future.

I am glad that Mr Clarke has written to my father twice, and I am looking forward to meeting him. And I am very glad of and grateful for the huge wave of support I have had from so many people reading my diary, I am still answering your many emails and I feel very lucky to be surrounded by so much good cheer, kind words and sensible advice.

I shall let you know how the meeting goes...

Update Sunday 19th March
Clarke apologises after attack on father of 7/7 victim ( Sunday Telegraph)
Clarke in London bomb row with cleric ( Sunday Times)
Clarke belaboured by a turbulent priest ( Observer)

Hmmm. I wasn't very keen for these stories to run, as the matter has now been sorted out, but the papers have picked up on this ten days after the story was doing the rounds of the blogosphere, and there you go. I've played it down as much as possible with the papers. Still, this feels like a good example of the internet and blogging helping to get a good result; for me personally, and for Dad, and of course it helps to raise the issue of the public enquiry, and this feels like democracy in action, I think - so the links go up as a thank you to everyone who supported me and Dad, and who wrote to me and Mr Clarke.

The F word

This article was commissioned for the Sunday Times News Review, however, because it wasn't possible to get an interview with Rev. Julie Nicholson ( quite understandably) the piece has been put on hold, and so I reproduce it here on this website with the permission of the editor.


''I write this exactly eight months since 7th July 2005 when a nineteen year old man detonated his bomb on my train, feet away from me, killing 26 fellow-passengers, injuring scores more. It is three years, eight months since 16th July 2002, when I was attacked by another young man; an itinerant stranger who broke into my flat and raped me, beat me and left me for dead. In November last year, I wrote my story, ‘Rachel’s Story’ in this newspaper, and I touched on the issue of forgiveness. As the daughter of a vicar, and an ex Theology student, people often asked me the F-word question: Can you forgive? I struggled to answer that question then, and I struggle still.

This week, the Rev. Julie Nicholson, a parish priest from Bristol, whose daughter Jenny was killed in the Edgware Road bomb attack by Mohammed Siddique Khan, spoke out about her rage, and how she could not forgive Jenny’s killer.

‘Forgiving another human being for violating your child is almost beyond human capabilities. It is very difficult for me to stand behind an altar and celebrate the Eucharist and lead people in words of peace and reconciliation and forgiveness when I feel very far from that myself’. She has left parish work and she has moved to a community youth project involving the arts, a subject that was close to her daughter’s heart. She remains an ordained priest

Julie is both a minister to a congregation, and a mother of a murdered child. She is a witness to the at times unbearable love and grief of being fully human. How many of us could stand eight months later at an altar and speak of peace and reconciliation?

I remain in regular contact with other survivors from the bombed Piccadilly line train. We have talked about our feelings towards the bombers of last July. I have not yet met a survivor who says they feel anger towards the bombers. Why not?

‘I t was mass-murder, not martyrdom’, says Richard, who was badly injured when the explosion hurled him out of the train. ‘But what is the point of vengeance? It’s easier not to have resentment towards them, because they’re dead. There’s no court case, no justice process. I don’t subscribe to the idea that the bombers were victims. But if every time I feel tinnitus or look at my horrible scar I felt anger, it would hurt me. That would be no kind of life.’

Jane, another Kings Cross survivor points out, ‘Sometimes, it is very powerful to choose not to forgive.’ She describes herself as, ‘more accepting as forgiving’. ‘It can be strengthening – to say, no, you have gone too far to be forgiven. Rather than be forced to act out a position you don’t believe in - if you don’t believe it, don’t do it. You have to be true to yourself, deal with things in your way. I think what Julie is telling us is that she could not preach forgiveness anymore, which I can totally understand. It’s too early. She has suffered the worst thing in the world. And anyway, I don’t think you can forgive someone if they do not want your forgiveness’

Kirsty, a Labour voter who took two months off work with post-traumatic stress symptoms after the attacks is angry with the Prime Minister, not the bombers. ‘He was democratically elected to run this country for the good, and what he is doing is not good for this country or the people. He has betrayed my trust. I was angry with him before I was blown up – now I have become a first hand victim of his actions - not just an onlooker. When you become collateral damage’ yourself it is slightly more personal!’

She still struggles to comprehend the bombers’ actions. ‘Forgiveness is self-preservation; if I can’t forgive it will destroy me. For me, forgiveness means I need to understand first.’

Like Kirsty, I too was desperate to understand why these young men had bombed us. Four months after the bombings fellow-passenger Richard passed on details of a charitable organisation called The Forgiveness Project to me. A charitable organisation – with no political or religious affiliations – that works for conflict resolution and restorative practices, I visited the website ( and found a collection of inspiring personal testimonies of people discussing forgiveness after terrible events. I was captivated by the story of Khaled al-Berry, an ex Islamist radical who became a writer. For the first time, I was able to get an insight into the mind of a young man contemplating a ‘martyrdom operation’. A man who had stepped back from the brink only when he broke from the unquestionning revolutionary ideaology and found the space to question it, to think for himself. Understanding his story gave me hope. Suddenly, the bombers became human, the hate and anger faltered.

I recognise my own experience when Kirsty talks of how forgiveness came in stages. ‘Numbness at first, then a big awakening, when I saw Khan’s video. The Yorkshire accent – it became real, he deliberately wanted to kill and maim. Then anger – how could he say we deserved to die for supporting the war – when I was against it, when millions of us don’t support it? I knew the next stage was that I had to let go of the anger and forgive, or it would eat me alive. So that is why I have tried so desperately to understand – reading, researching, devouring the media – trying to understand suicide bombing and what was the bombers’ cause. But it is too extreme; I cannot comprehend how I could end up in such a place. These were perfectly intelligent young men – not nutcases, not outcasts – normal people.’

People may be shocked that a survivor has spent so much time trying to understand and find out more about the men who attacked us. Is this empathising with terrorists?

Kirsty is clear on this. ‘Understanding doesn’t mean you sympathise with them, it doesn’t mean that you think that it is justifiable – it just means that you have accepted it, and you don’t feel any anger towards them, or want revenge. Revenge is the easy way out, but it doesn’t do the vengeful person any good. Revenge just perpetuates a cycle. I don’t want revenge. I want healing.’

It can be harder to live with rankling injustice than it is to live with the wound caused by the attacks themselves: in this respect I am fortunate. My rapist was sentenced to 15 years in 2004 so he is no longer my problem, and as for the bomber who detonated his bomb in my carriage; he is dead, so he is no longer my problem either.

For me forgiveness is about moving through the storm of pain and outrage, holding onto my essential self, which was there before the devastating event. It’s hard to let go of the desire for revenge: anger became my sole driver in the months after the first attack.
But to be trapped in a state of permanent rage hurts me. I hold what has happened to me, the rape, the bomb, and I try to live through it. I do not want to live a life defined entirely by an attack on me.

Forgiveness is a choice, and a gift I make to myself, to live freely in the light, rather than to be trapped in a hell of hatred and vengefulness. It has little to do with the perpetrators of the crimes; it is for me, not them that I choose to do this. It is how I stay sane.

When I cannot go any further, I lean on others; my partner, my family, my friends and fellow passengers. I have found that the only way to get past hate and cruelty is to look for where there is still love. I have put up walls to survive in the past; I have used my anger like armour. I could not bear to be so vulnerable in the months after the rape, so I did what I could to protect my devastated self. It took time to forgive myself for being so painfully human. But I found that my vulnerability was my strength. I am human: and I live amongst humans in an imperfect world. The only world that we know.

A world where, yes, there is horrifying pain and injustice and cruelty, but also, still beauty and kindness and hope. Wounds take time to heal, and eight months is such a little time. I do not forgive in the Christian sense of the word. I do not exonerate. I move past, I let go, I walk through this and I walk on, leaving the bomber and the rapist and the anger behind me. It is the hardest thing I have ever done.''
© Rachel North 2006.

UPDATE: Here are my fellow passengers on the subject of forgiving the 7 uly bombers. Their words are well worth reading.
Yorkshire Lass, Holly Finch, Steve, and Steve's thoughtful update

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Argh, help, blog template issues

The blog template has gone wrong again: I tried to paste in a poll and now it is all out of whack. I have tried to compare all the code to a new blog template to see where I went wrong but I cannot work it out. I'm sorry to be such a goose, but does anyone know how to sort it out?


BBC on 7th July ambulance response

The heroic and dedicated staff of the London ambulance service were let down by lack of equipment.
And the ambulances so desperately needed at Russell Square took almost two hours to arrive.
I can see why they do not want a public enquiry, but all this is going to come out sooner or later, so...why not sign the petition and see if we can hurry it up?
A public enquiry will help us understand why July 7th happened and help us deal with the next disaster or terror attack better.

The news report on BBC London Tonight is available on the website.
It can be found at On the right hand side of the page at the top the days of the week are listed. If you click on "watch Wednesday's news" ( top right) it will play the programme.

Tonight you can just watch by clicking here, (click on ''latest news''). It will be up for 7 days, after tonight you will need to use the top right link for ''watch Wednesday's news''

Save Parliament!

Back in February, I wrote about the Legislative & Regulatory Reform Bill.

It is something I think everyone should be concerned about, never mind the deliberately boring title, this is A Very Bad Thing. Do you want Ministers to be able to...

create a new offence of incitement to religious hatred, punishable with two years’ imprisonment;
curtail or abolish jury trial;
permit the Home Secretary to place citizens under house arrest;
allow the Prime Minister to sack judges;
rewrite the law on nationality and immigration;
“reform” Magna Carta (or what remains of it)... Ministerial order, without involving Parliament? No debate, just because the Executive say so? No representatives of your views to challenge the above?

No, nor do I.

See Save Parliament website for what the LRRB is, and how to fight it. ( By writing letters, not rioting in the streets, phew) and see Justin for a snappy and easy to read but FRIGHTENING explanation of what's going on. And see here for the original site against the Bill.
And see Tim, who has a very good post on it.
And so has Davide, go see, read it and weep. No, don't weep, write to your M.P and make a fuss.

Or if you are not in Rupert's camp vis a vis us upstart bloggers ( we are the future, you know) then here is what the dead tree lot have to say...

Media Links:
How I woke up to a nightmare plot to steal centuries of law and liberty
The Times: February 15, 2006
Government seeks to pass laws without Parliament's approval
The Guardian: February 15, 2006
Legislative Reform
The Times: February 16, 2006
Who wants the Abolition of Parliament Bill?
The Times: February 21, 2006
Reform bill could 'sweep away parliamentary debate'
The Guardian: February 22, 2006
Fears raised on ministers' power
BBC News: February 22, 2006
From red tape to carte blanche
Daily Mail: February 23, 2006
MPs need a veto
The Guardian: February 27, 2006
Another blow to Parliament?
The Times: February 28, 2006
Bit fishy to blame apathy on voters
The Edinburgh Evening News: March 3, 2006
How we move ever closer to becoming a totalitarian state
The Observer: March 5, 2006
Now we can all make laws (if our faces fit)
The Independent: March 10, 2006
A Doomsday Machine for Parliament
The Telegraph: March 13, 2006
The Bill that could turn this country into a dictatorship
Daily Mail: March 13, 2006
MSPs concerned over power rise bill
The Scotsman: March 14, 2006

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

More on Dad's M.P...

My dad has received a response from his M.P, Mr Charles Clarke; there is no apology, I understand, but a meeting is now offered, to which I am also invited, should I wish to attend.

I should very much like to attend. If you have any questions you should like me to ask in the meeting, please do leave your suggestions in the comments box. For myself, I shall simply be asking: why no 7th July Public Enquiry?

More on ambulances...

The BBC London news report on the late appearance of the ambulances at Kings Cross/Russell on July 7th is planned for tomorrow at 6.30pm. If you can't watch it, fear not, because it will be available to see online after the programme has aired and I will put a link up.

UPDATE: Here is the link ( Wednesday's bulletin)

More on Forgiveness...

Yorkshire Lass has written a lovely piece.

And now so has Holly Finch ( both ladies are fellow passengers from the suicide-bombed train)

UPDATE: And so has Steve, ( another fellow passenger) who cannot forgive the bombers, but does not hate them either.

I am still working on my piece, titled 'The F-word'; if it doesn't make it into the Sunday Times I will stick it up here and we can all carry on discussing forgiveness which seems to be a very complex and lively topic at the moment...

Commonwealth Observance...

...was ace. Westminster Abbey was full of flowers, there were terrifying gymnastic displays in the aisle, steel bands, a gospel choir, sitar music, and an exquisite wordless aria from Patricia Rozario. I am still not very good with live music, I was trying not to cry. The other four people giving their testimonies were lovely: Ade, wheelchair basketball champ, Paralympic medallalist, TV presenter, Alice, HIV activist and writer, Dr. Munanwar, Commonwealth civil servant who helped with the South Asian earthquake, Findlay, marathon-running cancer sufferer, now clear and running round the world in 24 days in September. There were flag-bearers in national costume from all over the world ( some of whom had very skimpy costumes on and froze outside when we had the meet and greet with Prince Charles, Duchess Camilla, the PM of Malta ( this year's chair of the Council of Commonwealth Societies). There were representatives of all faiths there and the service was really good: thoughful, lively, actually extremely enjoyable and accessible whilst still retaining the pomp stuff that we do well in this country.

There were no representatives from the British Government at all, Blair was invited but pulled out, his replacement, Baroness Amos was a no-show as well. Other people came from all over the world. The service will be broadcast on the BBC World Service on Sunday across all time zones.

Afterwards we went to a drinks reception at Marlborough House and devoured canapes and met Prince Charles again who was very charming and asked me much more sensible questions than most people do when asking about July 7th. His hands were those of a farmer, reddened and roughened, as if he has been riding or chopping willow at Highgrove, which is what I bet he would prefer to do with his time rather than attend drinks parties and services. His nails were bitten and rough; perhaps that is why he is fond of holding his hands behind his back or putting them into his pockets. He was a genuinely nice, bright man. Camilla was wearing an amazing hat and looked much more fine-boned and pretty than she does in her photos, with very good legs. I shook hands with her but didn't talk; she was working the other side of the room.

The drinks reception finished and we testimonial-givers decided to leave but were then persuaded on to a pub by some of the Commonwealth staff who had worked flat out on the day and wanted to kick back. We decamped to the Red Lion, and got quite pissed, having survived on twiglets and canapes all evening. But in a good way. It was a great afternoon and I shall remember it for a long time.

Two more for two-lunches

Devil's Kitchen and Chicken Yoghurt go in with both feet on the right honourable gentleman.
Beware of incendiary swearing which may scorch wildlife and frighten kittens.

I saw Dad and Mum yesterday, they came to the Commonwealth Observance in Westminster Abbey. Dad is still bowled over by everyone's support, he has been reading all the links and comments. I love Justin's letter writing campaign, let's do it.

From Chicken Yoghurt...''(Why don't you write to the Home Secretary and ask him why he refuses to hold an public inquiry into the July 7 bombings? It's a game for all the family and couldn't be simpler. First you write to the Home Secretary and ask him why he refuses to hold an public inquiry into the July 7 bombings. Then, a month later, you write to the Home Secretary and ask him why he has failed to reply to your letter you sent to ask him why he refuses to hold an public inquiry into the July 7 bombings. Then, a month later...Or, you could sign the petition)''

UPDATE: It has gone mad. 46 comments and dozens of links. Thank you everyone for your support. It means a lot. Why does blogland feel more democratic than democracy these days?

Monday, March 13, 2006

Off to Westminster Abbey...

Years after this Government have gone, families and survivors will still be living with the after effects of one rainy morning in July 2005, when suicide-bombing, for years a daily fear, a daily reality for people living in the Middle East, came to London and shocked us all.

It is the passengers on those trains and that bus today, their families, and all those who helped on July 7th, that I will be thinking of today. Of how ordinary people did their best in almost-unimaginable circumstances.

Unlike the other speakers in Westminster Abbey, I have been asked to comment on a man-made tragedy, not a natural calamity, like an earthquake or a terrible disease. The bombings, unlike the these tragedies did not strike out of a blue sky. Evaluating why they happened is a vital part of trying to prevent such carnage - 56 dead, over 700 injured - happening again. Evaluating what we did after they happened is a way of trying to ensure, that if - and many say - when - it happens again, the response, the aftercare, is as good as it can possibly be. Since the bombers' targets are indiscriminate and are aimed at any one of us, it is important, I passionately believe, that we try to stay together and work for the good, to stand against the bombers' nihilistic cause and to show by our actions that we are not the selfish, aggressive, corrupt people they say that we are.

I will never forget July 7th, and nor will many other people. I have read the words of Mohammed Siddique Khan and I utterly reject them. However angry you are, for whatever reason, there is nothing in Islam that condones the slaughter of innocents.

There is much work to do, and the bombings are another wake-up call that we all share the same world and must live in it together. We are fortunate in the West, we are wealthy and our wealth insulates us from many injustices and much suffering. Yet as ideas are shared across the internet in seconds, as the media beams global events into our front rooms, it is time, I think, to ask if we are living up to the ideal of ourselves as a democratic, free, fair, benign, kindly society.

Having seen the reaction of ordinary people on July 7th, I have no doubt that people are essentially kind, and compassionate and wise and fair. I hope therefore that our elected leaders also embody these qualities, and that the stories shared today from people from all over the world will be a testimony to the power of the human spirit. I feel honoured to attend.

Today is for my fellow-passengers.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Waiting For Ambulances

In other news, I have done an interview for BBC London Tonight. They called up about how long it took for ambulances to arrive at Kings Cross and Russell Square on July 7th. It will be shown next week. The interviewer heard my story, then showed me the ambulance call sheets and L.U records of calling for help - turned my account of when the ambulances came ( based on my experience and talking later to LU staff and other survivors) matched the timeline the BBC's had. It was chilling reading what must have been increasingly desperate calls for '' five ambulances, then ten, then fifteen, then - everything you have got, there are hundreds of casualties''. But the requested ambulances did not appear for a long time.

Let us be in no doubt of the bravery and compassion of the emergency services individual staff members on July 7th. They were ordinary people, doing their absolute best. But the emergency services are only as good as their communications systems. And it seems the systems failed us.The Piccadilly line bomb went off between 8.50am and 8.55am, ( latest thoughts are that it was 8.53am) : the ambulances did not arrive at Russell Square, where the most deperately injured were taken from carriage one, the bombed carriage, until almost 11am.

That is over two hours of heroic LU staff and commuters and passers-by and bombed passengers trying to care for badly injured, frightened people, amongst chaos and dreadful scenes, without ambulances. People were bleeding, frightened, deafened, with torn clothes and shrapnel wounds and severe injuries. Lying on the floor of the ticket hall. Waiting for ambulances for two hours.

It's not good enough. University College hospital is five minutes away from Russell Square.

And yet, they say ''we had planned for this''. After the simulataneous attacks on the Madrid subway at rush hour, after the Met instigating a shoot-to-kill policy in secrecy four years ago, to deal with suicide bombers in urban areas, after the Joint Intelligence Committee warning that Iraq would increase the threat of terrorism before they invaded Iraq- they still relied, for a start, on contacting ambulance emergency services personnel via their mobile phones? For crying out loud. Anyone who has ever been to a music festival or a big sporting event can tell you what happens when everyone uses their phones at once; the network crashes. Two days after July 7th, they issued pagers to key personnel. Tells you it all, really, dosn't it? If that was a funding issue, or an management issue, I hope the person responsible can sleep at night...Watch BBC London News for the full report. Not sure when, probably Tuesday or Wednesday.Hmmm, no wonder they don't want a public enquiry.

UPDATE: Report here ( choose Wednesday's bulletin)

Commonwealth Day.

I've kept quiet about this up until now... but it is too late to un-invite me. So here's the hot news.
Tomorrow I shall be giving a speech in Westminster Abbey for the 2006 Commonwealth Observance. I think it will be going out live on the World Service. In attendance will be leaders from all over the world, faith leaders, and HRH Charles Prince of Wales and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. Sadly not in attendance will be Prime Minister Tony Blair. Which is a damn shame because I was so hoping to get to talk to him. He pulled out a week ago.

Never mind. I have been invited to give a short speech as a representative of July 7th survivors( only 100 words) which will then be reflected upon by a Muslim and Christian faith leader. Four other speakers will talk about overcoming disability, living with H.I.V and cancer, the South Asia earthquake - issues that affect people in the Commonwealth nations. The theme this year is 'Health and Vitality'. I asked the organisers why July 7th. They replied they had wanted to touch on the day as it had affected not just Londoners but people all over the world ( this is true, there were scores of different nationalities, especially the south-bound Piccadilly to Heathrow train when it was bombed). I asked why they picked me. They said they had been reading my blog since I wrote for the BBC back in July as a 'citizen journalist'. I called back and pointed out in a rather agonised conversation with the Director of the Observance that I was not really a big fan of the present Government and whilst keen to honour the courage of my fellow passengers and those involved on the day, not very keen to be the chirpy bomb victim in front of the PM, since I considered his illegal war had been instrumental in the bombs going off in the first place. The organisers said it didn't matter, they still wanted me to speak. Which was very sweet of them, and it is an honour to be asked. I have promsed my parents that I will behave.

This is my speech in full:

''The London bombings did not come out of the blue: they were caused by the actions of people. Yet hope can follow horror. I am proud to be part of a group of survivors of all ages, of different races and faiths - my fellow passengers.

We were strangers before July 7th, but when the bomb exploded we looked after each other in the smoke and the dark. Later we met, set up a website, and became friends. My fellow passrngers show how people can respond to terror with calmness, kindness and unity. Helping each other, we continue our journey.''

CONGREGATION: '' We affirm our belief in justice for everyone and peace between peoples and nations''

After the Westminster Abbey ceremony ( which Mum and Dad are going to attend) I am going to a reception ( no plus ones for that, sadly) which is where I will meet Charles and Camilla. I have bought a new skirt and jacket, cleaned behind my ears and polished my boots.
I wonder who else will be there? I wonder who will be the PM's representative, as he isn't coming ?( Funny, I was told he's attended pretty much every other year).

Anyway, I shall let you know what happens...

Britblog time again

Jubilate in excelsis, it is Brit blog round up time again. (And thanks again, Tim.)

Big love to all the linkers...(2)

A big cuddly thank you everyone who came out in support of my dad vs. the Safety Elephant. In no particular order...

Jez Blog
Stephen Lovegrove ( fellow survivor)
Tim Worstall

Ex Cynic
Democratic Underground
Drowned in Sound

Cable Forum
Persistence of Vision
Pete Price forums
Logical Voice
Dave Cross
Nether World
Mike Power
Liberal Review
Iain Dale
Free Britannia

UPDATE... and still they come
Craig Murray
Curious Hamster
Kalahari Lighthouse

ANOTHER UPDATE... Dave gets a reply to his letter to Mr Clarke!
Also on Blairwatch andDavide Simonetti follows up

and more people's thoughts...
The Soliliquist ( succinct) :-)
Ceridwen Devi

and now the BBC talkboards and the Guardian talkboards. Oh, and some 9/11 conspiracy theorists but they don't get a link, because they are quite, quite mad and so objectionably insulting - not to mention inaccurate ( the Vatican does not allow priest to marry, for starters, mr - you -know-who-you- are) that I exploded with mirth at their ramblings. No, I am not a COINTELPRO Vatican whore commie bitch slut, and yes, you had better stay in your bedroom and play on the internet until you feel better. And don't even think about playing with guns.

Any more, let me know. It's interesting what a wide range of the political spectrum the links cover...

Thank you. Very much. Let's hope that Dad hears back from his M.P soon.
My mother is anxious that I will be nobbled by M15 for dissension, but as even M15 seem to be after a public enquiry, I feel calm enough at present. Though I shall keep a look at for sharpened umbrellas brandished on bridges...

Friday, March 10, 2006

This is an insult

My dad, who is a parish priest and honorary Canon, read my draft article on Forgiveness ('The F-word') last night, and it so happened that he was going to to a clergy meeting this morning at Norwich Cathedral where the special guest was the Home Secretary Charles Clarke .

Clarke is my father's MP.

Clarke, in his speech to the assembled clergy, made much of the fact that he had spoken to the PM ''only yesterday'' and the PM was at the time considering the problem of an angry Sedgefield constituent about the closure of a school. Clarke remarked upon this system of top executives still being MPs and responsible to their constituents, how unusual this was compared to most Parliamentary systems. You lucky people, even though I am the Home Secretary, I am still also your M.P and here to help with all your little problems and enquiries. Etc.

He didn't actually say ' you lucky people'', Dad said, but that was the inference. Dad was pleased that he could finally ask his M.P, Charles Clarke, the question he has been keen to ask for some months. Dad waited eagerly to ask his question; he had already written to Clarke in December 2005 with his question. But Clarke had not replied.

Dad was therefore very keen to be part of what was advertised in the meeting notes as ''30 minutes of reflection'' after Clarke spoke. (In these meetings, ''30 minutes of reflection''means ''30 minutes of debate''. But it a clergy meeting, so they all ''reflect'', rather than shout and argue. It's more dignified and godly, see. )

Unusually, according to Dad, on this occasion there was not a debate and questions from the floor, as is usual with these meetings at which Clarke was the special guest today: there were instead only 3 questions which Clarke answered at length, the questions seemed to Dad to be pre-prepared to give Clarke an opportunity to talk about things like prisons and police in a self-congratulatory way.

Dad was not able to ask his question, the last question finished and it was announced that there would be Eucharist in 2 minutes. Dad was very angry that ''the Eucharist was being used as a filibuster.'' And still he had not had a chance to ask the question that was by now burning him up inside. It was time to break bread together; people began to leave the room.

My father tells me he at this point left his seat and strode up to Clarke, because he wanted to ask his question, and he said,

''Congratulations on fixing the meeting so that nobody can ask questions! You will have heard about Rev Julie Nicholson who is so angry she cannot forgive the bombers who killed her daughter on 7th July , well, I have a question, my daughter was feet away from the 7/7 Kings Cross bomb, and she and some other surivors have said they are not angry with the bombers, but with the Government, because there was no public inquiry. Why is there no public inquiry?''

Charles Clarke looked at my father ''in a very nasty way'', and then he said to my father

'' Get away from me, I will not be insulted by you, this is an insult'.

And he stormed past, and Dad was so upset he could not share Eucharist with this man,

and my father left the cathedral in despair.

Dad has cheered up a bit now, but he was almost in tears at being so insulted by Clarke when I spoke to him: he did not think he had insulted Clarke at all.

Why is it an insult when the father of a bomb survivor, a gentle man of God, who has never caused trouble in his life, asks for a public inquiry? Why is his question not answered?

You can write and ask Charles Clarke yourself, but I do not expect he will trouble to reply. If he does, can you leave a comment in my blog? My father , and I , and many other people would very much like to hear his answer.

UPDATE: 8.50pm - Dad has tried again.

''10th March 2006
Dear Mr Clarke,
We met briefly today in Norwich Cathedral. A meeting I shall not easily forget.
I am sorry if you felt a direct question from a father of a July 7th bombing victim to be insulting. If I appeared disrespectful of someone who has to carry the mantle of high office I must crave your forgiveness. Ministers of the crown as well as ministers of religion are there to serve the people with as much humility they can muster.
As you will see from my address you are my member of parliament and I have a right to ask you a question, even one which is of national importance. The time and place may not have been to your convenience but I, like most people in the cathedral today, were expecting that we would be allowed questions from the floor. This has been the custom at every ‘Bishop’s Day’ I have attended. That expectation having been withdrawn for whatever reason caused a degree of frustration among your audience.
I should still like an answer to my question, which I ask on behalf of my daughter, Rachel and many other victims. What is the reason for the Government still refusing to conduct a public inquiry into the July Bombings?
The greatest outrage in peacetime Britain surely deserves to be properly addressed so that we can begin to understand why it is that segments of our British Islamic young people are becoming so radicalised that they can contemplate the mass murder of innocent fellow citizens?
I would appreciate the courtesy of a response. This is not the first time I have written to you on this subject. I have yet to receive an acknowledgement. You were at pains to point out, at the beginning of your address, that even the Prime Minister has to exercise himself with constituent questions so I hope you will be following his example.

Yours sincerely,

Rev. Canon Phillip [Rachel North's dad]''