Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A moment of introspection

You know, I think I've been writing about politics so much recently, because it is easier than writing about how I feel. A lot of my frustration and anger can be shifted into political argument, and besides, it is also a way of getting back to normality for me. I was always very interested in politics; after July 7th happened, the interest in the news became overwhelming. Being unwittingly at the epicentre of one of the biggest news stories in UK made the personal, political and the political, personal. And so it has gone on ever since.

Right now, I can see that things still aren't properly back to normal, despite a great deal of effort put into trying to make it that way. Despite a promising early start, I now find it too difficult to get on the tube in the morning, if it is crowded. And it always is crowded, and so I can't get on. I get taxis instead, which I can't afford.

I get the tube back in the evening, though that is also hard: not so much the tube journey, but the walking back through the dark streets around Finsbury Park and the crowds of youths hanging about. They frighten me too, though I try not to let it show.

I find it extremely difficult to concentrate at work at the moment. It just does not interest me as much as it used to; it feels all wrong - too trivial - and the part of my life that used to get passionate about advertising seems a long way away now. Secretly, I would like to leave my job, and do something else. Writing. That's all I really want to do now. Not advertising strategy, not really, not any more. I try, I like my team, I smile and laugh, I am really grateful to my company for their support. I try to work hard, I try not to talk about what I am thinking and feeling inside. Somedays I wake up and I feel frightened, or sad, all day, or find that my mind is floating away from my desk and down, down into the darkness of the tunnel, and I am still re-living it, again, unwillingly feeling the horror and fear that I did not feel at the time. I was numb at the time. Sometimes I wish I still was.

I stopped going to counselling months ago. I don't take anti-depressants or sleeping pills. This blog is the only place I talk about July and after. The rest of my life goes on, and I try to stay connected to it all, with greater or lesser degrees of success. Some things are almost impossible. Admin. Listening to beautiful music. The dark smoke I still smell makes it hard to draw breath sometimes, and breathe freely, be normal.

I don't know how many other survivors feel the same. I know dozens who do, but I don't know the full number.

I've taken the day off work today as holiday, to be quiet, to write and to consider. Hence this blog post. I am reading my whole story all over again, from the beginning. It's making me sad to read it. It's very hard to think about all this stuff, and to think of all of these other people's stories as I am reading my own.

I have been asked to tell this story so many times, that it has become almost unreal to me. But at the same time, it has become a part of me, and now, still, much of what I do, think, feel is defined by the events of that July summer morning and after.

I have been asked to write the story again, the whole story, all of it. What happened before July 7th, on that day, and what happened after. The story of Rachel from North London, an anonymous commuter, like so many others, who got on a train one day, and for whom everything changed.

To jog my memory, I am listening to John Gaunt's BBC radio programme of 7/7/2005, which covers what happened as the events unfolded. Londoners call in, and tell their stories, live, during the show. I recognise the voices of some of the callers now, they were strangers to me then, but I have met them since, we were brought together by the bombs on July 7th.

I also re-read the thread on urban 75 where I first posted my account, which became the BBC account, which became this diary. My story was just one of many stories, and so many were hurt far more than me, so many were bereaved, so many were terrified. I can only tell my own story, and I tell it, over and over, simply because it helps me, and because people have said that it helped them, and because it could be the story of anyone. Or so I think.

It's hard to know what to do. I get verbally attacked, regularly, by people who question my motives, for writing, for speaking out. I have had to question my motives searchingly, myself. What right do I have to speak out and say what I do? When I was not badly hurt?

Only the same right as anyone else, and after all, this is just a small personal blog where I talk about what I think, like millions upon millions of other bloggers. Nobody has to listen, nobody has to read. But people do listen, they do read, and some of them leave comments, send emails, get in touch, amongst them many other people like me who were caught up in the London bombings, and other terrible events. They share their stories, and I am moved, and humbled, and grateful for their sharing them. It helps to know I am not alone, that I am like other human beings, and that we can listen to each other.

I have learned so much about other people through this event, and often what I learn surprises me. Blogging and publishing on the internet gives many people a voice and a means of sharing what they think. Not all of it is what you'd want to hear. Some of what is written is pure vitriol, some of it is pure compassion. All of it is deeply human.

Many voices, many millions of people. This blog, as I always said, is just one voice, from the darkness of the underground train. It's me, my story, and thank you for reading it, and for coming with me on this strange journey.


Anonymous leon said...

Beautifully written.:)

September 27, 2006 4:23 pm  
Anonymous alcock said...

Just wanted to post a comment commending you for this blog. I haven't got anything profound or brilliant to say other than thank you for this, it's wonderful.

I know this is innane- I can't find the words to say what I want to, not here whilst I'm at work. But thank you.

September 27, 2006 4:38 pm  
Blogger Don't Call Me Ishmael said...

I want to respond meaningfully to you, but your writing is so powerful in its clarity that my own words come out stilted and murky: so here is my best shot at expressing my response to your post. As you've said, you have told the story of what happened to you on July 7 many times, but we are all still here, listening. You're a writer, a storyteller. I am truly touched time & again by your story and so I keep reading, I keep this connection with you, in the only way I can, showing you in the only way I can that I care about you and your story and I believe what you write is important. I hope you will keep writing, about anything and everything, because I think you have many other stories to tell. Thank you for reaching out to us.

September 27, 2006 7:48 pm  
Blogger kris said...

And that's why we like it- because it's real.

September 27, 2006 10:15 pm  
Blogger Rachel said...

Dear everybody.

Thank you very, very much for the comments and emails about this post. It has been a great source of hope and support, and, without saying too much at this point, it has helped to crystalise something imprtant for me. I hope to be able to tell you exactly what, and the outcome fo the decision, very soon. But for now, thank you once again, fellow travellers. You have helped more than you know.

September 27, 2006 10:40 pm  
Blogger Owen said...

I don't agree with everything you say, but I appreciate you sharing it all anyway.

September 28, 2006 12:06 am  
Anonymous Maria said...

I'm glad you write about what you do. I keep reading. I'm shocked by what some people have written about/to you that has been so negative! If they don't like it, don't read it! I think it's a great way to share your journey. I've never been in a terrorist attack. I don't have PTSD. But your description of the events of 7/7 gave me physical chills.

September 28, 2006 12:57 am  
Anonymous Joty said...

I am very moved your words, they touch my heart and many others as well. You are right "Nobody has to listen, nobody has to read." and I am upset by the fact that people send you abusive emails. I suppose it goes with the territory, tall grass syndrome, as you become more visible in the media landscape.

John Cleese and Robin Skinner (Life and how to survive it) talk about how Americans are unenvious of success and lack our sense of schadenfreude; we in the UK are "loser-friendly"; hence our modesty which is way of deflecting envy.

Glad to be aboard your narrative. A while ago a friend told me this: "And if you start blogging, know that it is a supreme act of generosity to share your interiors with your community."

Thank you for your openness, honesty and generosity.

September 28, 2006 3:49 am  
Anonymous joty said...

Yesterday in the car most of the day and i popped in an old cassette I found of WH Auden poems, beautiful. But, the tape finished and suddenly the theme to Desert Island discs burst our making me jump, it was an old one from 1999, Bill Bryson and he talks about being in Yorkshire and expressing similar sentiments about wanting to leave his sub-editing job and become a writer. On his return, he got a phone call from his wife, or was it when he got home, she told him "I have put the house on the market" they moved to Yorkshire, and he hasn't looked back.

The only risk in life is not taking one.

September 28, 2006 4:10 am  
Blogger steve said...

Hi Rachel,

wishing you the best in everything, I'm sure it will all work out. You are strong.

I wasn't aware of that BBC London radio program and listened to it last night after you linked it. It gave me shivers, especially when the journalist rings in from the Kings Cross ticket room with the alarm going off in the background. He asked me to speak on that show. It took me right back there.


September 28, 2006 8:21 am  
Blogger Julia Buckley said...

I can only agree with the other commenters here.

I'm really just letting you know I think you have a lovely writing style.

September 28, 2006 10:07 am  
Blogger Holly Finch said...

morning misses...sounds like things are exciting...whatever you decide will be right for you I'm sure.

Lovely post, and I know you know you are not alone with your ongoing fears...we are all living them with you...and it's a journey I'm proud to be sharing with you
hxx know who gone quiet again

September 28, 2006 10:24 am  
Anonymous IainC said...

" ... the part of my life that used to get passionate about advertising seems a long way away now. Secretly, I would like to leave my job, and do something else. Writing. That's all I really want to do now."
Rachel North 27th September 06.

Nuff said. It's no secret anymore, but we knew it anyway. Look forward to your continuing writer's, not (just) 7/7 survivor's, blog.

And thank you, Rachel, for sharing your words, passion and fears with us for this past year plus.


September 28, 2006 2:17 pm  
Anonymous Gill Hicks said...

You know that I completely understand! I 'had' to leave my career post 7/7 - havent regretted one moment of being devoted to building peace, to spending the time with Muslim communities, to doing all I can to stop terrorism.
Follow your heart! with love, Gill Hicks

September 28, 2006 7:47 pm  
Blogger Clare said...

That was a really lovely post Rachel.

September 28, 2006 9:51 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lovely piece of honest writing. Thank you and bless you, Rachel, for sharing yourself in this way.

I am going to have to re-read it at least once and ponder before making more comments.

Meantime, just to let you know that you are certainly not alone, that there are many more like you out here!

September 28, 2006 10:03 pm  
Blogger Karol Cross said...

I remember when I first read your account on the BBC website, how moved I was. And how grateful that you had chosen to share it.

I still am.

Since then you've also opened my eyes to so many things which I was blissfully unaware of before.

Thank you Rachel.

September 28, 2006 10:28 pm  
Anonymous Graham O'Mara said...

Here here

I would love to read you work, and to see you feel "at one" with yourself

Maybe it is true that one person can make a difference

I think you have been one (ansstill will be)

September 29, 2006 12:45 am  
Anonymous Duncan said...

You're absolutely right Rachel - you've the same right to express your opinions, thoughts and feelings as anyone else - especially after what you've been through.

Your writing is excellent too - concise and succinct and full of meaning.

September 29, 2006 2:13 am  
Anonymous Duncan said...

You're absolutely right Rachel - you've the same right to express your opinions, thoughts and feelings as anyone else - especially after what you've been through.

Your writing is excellent too - concise and succinct and full of meaning.

September 29, 2006 2:14 am  
Anonymous Linda said...


I'm a regular visitor to this blog but don't comment often as the compassion of your words don't need me to tack my nonsense on the end.

I can't tell you how surprised I am that you are not already "writing" for your living.

You could walk into any writing job or steam on in to some of the most prestigious freelance writing gigs, couldn't you?

I've been debating on my work blog who considers themselves a writer, a reporter, a journalist or hack. You are definitely in the first lot and I'm somewhere 'down' the list.

I'm a contributor to a brand new (and currently top secret!)publication that's hopefully soon to be unveiled and it has a section for women who blog - I have said that you are top of our wishlist for people to interview.

If you ever want any help whatsoever in making sense of getting to grips with writing as a career (er yeah, like you need it!) then in whatever small way I can help, I will.

I'm nowhere near as talented a writer as you but I have somehow managed to make sense of the business point of view over the last three years.

All the best to you,


September 29, 2006 2:33 pm  

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