The Sunday Times today highlights another anomaly in the New Years Honours lists: despite Gordon Brown saying that “It is right that we look at how our honours system can recognise those in our emergency services and members of the public who showed such bravery and heroism in the face of the recent terrorist attacks,” it transpires that ordinary members of the public who rushed to help victims on 7 July 2005 have by-and-large slipped through the net, indeed, some have been deliberately snubbed, whilst civil servants have been honoured for their work specifically on that day.
The London Assembly Scrutiny Committee when it met to learn lessons from 77, heard from men like Tim, a teacher, who smashed his way into a stricken train, with other passengers and tended the injured and dying at terrible cost to his own health as post-traumatic stress disorder impacted upon him later. Tim is not the only person I know who did extraordinary things; there are dozens of other people whose heroism we owe a debt to. Peter, Ben, John...
...I know many people never thought to be thanked; they just did what they could and if they paid a price for it afterwards, they paid it quietly and never asked for any reward or recognition. Tim himself never pushed himself forward for an award, his wife approached the Cabinet office without telling him, and was rebuffed.
It does look bad, though, because the Government is not being consistent. ( Times) The Cabinet Office told Judy Coulson in a letter that “honours are awarded to people for meritorious service over a sustained period and not specifically for saving someone’s life”.
But various public sector workers were given a range of awards in the new year’s honours list two years ago in direct recognition of their conduct on 7/7. They included CBEs for the heads of Transport for London and the London Underground, OBEs for senior representatives of the police, ambulance service and Salvation Army, and MBEs for those, such as the supervisor at Russell Square Tube station, who helped injured passengers.The members of London Underground staff, (like Boycey), the emergency services workers, (like Steve the BTP officer), they all deserve their awards. So too do the members of the public who assisted during the flooding disaster.
But there are still people who worked in the emergency services and LU who deserve recognition, who have not yet been publicly thanked, and members of the public who had only basic first aid training, or no training at all, who nonetheless acted heroically.
And it is wrong to snub members of the public who did so much to help on one occasion, whilst giving out awards to members of the public who helped on another occasion. The chaos in the aftermath of the bombs, and the mistakes made leading up to 7/7 might jar embarrassingly with the official picture of 7/7 that the Government likes to put about, but that is not an excuse to sideline those whose actions saved lives and whose heroism continues to exact a toll on their health and family/professional lives, often for years afterwards.
Most people did what I instinctively did, in the shocked aftermath; I only tried to survive and then to get away out of danger, holding tight to others to keep going, calling for calm because that was what we needed to do to survive and avoid further injury. It takes a special kind of courage to walk towards danger, instead of fleeing from it - to look at the unthinkable, and to decide to try to help, no matter what the cost to yourself and your loved ones - then, and afterwards.