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....

Update
'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
Guardian
Times
Sun

5 Comments:

Anonymous ferijen said...

Rachel, I hope that today they listen to you and finally, someone 'official' starts to take notice of what the victims of this tragedy have to say. Nine months too late.

Hoping the antibiotics work for you too.

March 23, 2006 12:41 pm  
Blogger Cheryl said...

Huge waves of support!

Perhaps, perhaps if you radiated a completely usual level of professional calm today, there might be some willing to misread that and think (because it suits them) that you and other survivors are seemingly unaffected.

Perhaps if your pride can take it, it is best to be exhausted and a little deflated today, for the truth to be conveyed.

And yes, although I believe thats likely, I am only saying so, so you don't beat yourself up if you come across 'under par'. All things work to the good, and all that.


Hoping you have a wonderful night's sleep tonight.

March 23, 2006 4:30 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rachel,

Have you seen this?

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/4837686.stm

Something to add to your researches into forgiveness.....

The Anon

March 23, 2006 6:20 pm  
Anonymous Gribbley said...

Rachel,

I caught the back end of a short report on yesterday's meeting on BBC news last night. Didn't see you on there, but saw some of the other survivors. Obviously a harrowing thing, having to re-live it again, but I hope something good comes of it. Well done to all of you that went and made sure that your views were heard!

March 24, 2006 9:37 am  
Blogger Holly Finch said...

you were a star too hone...completely wiped out too....rest yourself well...you deserve it xx

March 24, 2006 9:57 am  

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