Friday, September 30, 2005

Writing for the Sunday Times

The day before yesterday, I was contacted by a lady called Deirdre who worked for the Sunday Times.

She said that she had been reading my blog ( 'all 58 pages of it!') and she said that I could write. She asked me to write something for them. Blimey. Wow.

First she suggested I wrote something about compensation. The papers have been discussing the issue of compensation for victims: there has been an outcry over the fact that many very seriously injured people have yet to receive any money. And this is of course a tremendous worry, and too damn hard for people who are already struggling to deal with terrible injuries.

I said that I was sorry but I was not comfortable writing about compensation. I have not applied for it. I am ambiguous about it; maybe I should apply, maybe not.

There are people who have dreadful injuries, people who need medical attention, proper long-term help and care. I want them to have as much money as they can possibly get. They shouldn't have to be worrying about the mortgage when their legs have been blown off.

All I have is a small ugly scar on my wrist from where the glass embedded itself. I don't mind it. It is a battle scar. When it itches, I feel glad that I am alive. Which is an ok trade-off.

I said to Deirdre, who was a lovely woman, that I would be interested in writing about life after the bombs. And about Kings Cross United, the small but growing group of survivors from my train, if everyone was cool with that. I thought it would be interesting for readers to know about how we are managing, three months on. (I still wanted to be anonymous though). She agreed.

I emailed Kings Cross United and asked what they thought about me writing our story. Because my story is our story in lots of ways: my story is the story of hundreds of people. It could have been anyone. It just happened to be us.

Everyone who responded was very positive about it: it was generally agreed that we would like people to know something about 'the turbulence and determination we've all been through in varying degrees' as one of the group members put it.

So I wrote the feature, staying late after work. It was very hard to write. I don't mean chewing-the-pencil-can't-think-what-to-say difficult, I mean that it made me cry. It hurt to write. Tears ran off the end of my nose and even got into the keyboard and my throat felt very choked, as if I had swallowed a pebble. But the words flowed almost effortlessly, in that sense it was not hard to write at all. Afterwards I looked like a boiled owl. I typed as fast as I could and I did 2000 words very quickly. The story told itself.

The first part of the story, I have told many many times now. The bang, the terrible smoke, the screaming. And then the part that makes me weep remembering it. How the frightened people in the train tried so hard to keep each other calm. How we held hands and talked to each other. Led each other to safety, carried each other, comforted each other. How we united in the darkness and tried to save each other and in doing so, saved ourselves from what would have happened if the horror of the bomb had become the second catastrophe of a panicked stampede.

The second part was how we emerged into the light and how we found each other, weeks on, and shared our stories. How life is, now. How we are now Kings Cross United.The small triumphs, the courage people show. The recovery, the taking back what the terrorists tried to take away. What a bloody hard relentless slog it all is, sometimes.

When I had finished, I was glad that I had written it.

Four more people have joined Kings Cross United this week.Each of them has said what I said, what everyone said, thank God, I wanted to find you, someone else who was there, who understands.

I would so like more people from the train to find us, if it would help them. There are many people who were on that train and I don't know if they would like to meet others who were there on that day, but if they would, we would like to meet them. They are very welcome down the pub.That's partly why I wrote the article. I would like people who need us to find us.
And I would like people to understand more of what it is like for the bomb survivors three months on.

People have a great deal of compassion, many people want to help, but they don't know what to say. They think it is best not to mention it. Or they think you 'must be okay by now'. They think by talking about it, you will become sad and they don't want you to be sad. Or they think they will feel embarrassed. They don't really think that they know what to say.

The thing is, you don't have to say anything. The greatest service you can perform for someone who is shocked, saddened, frightened, hurt, is to just listen. To be there, and to keep being there. To accept them, and to let them be hurt, or sad, or angry and to not run away, or flinch, or try to change the subject, or to jolly them out of it. Just to be with them, in sympathy and solidarity, and if necessary, silence. Your simple human compassion is enough. And your cups of tea.

When I write, strangers read, people who I have never met, and it soothes me to know that they are listening. On this journey too it feels like I have fellow passengers.

I know how important fellow passengers are. I will never, ever forget what I have learned since July 7th.

And so I have dedicated my first proper published piece as a writer to my fellow passengers. You know who you are.

I am proud to be on this journey with you.


Blogger Clare said...

I'm glad you have decided to write this article Rachel as it sounds like you needed to tell it to help yourself as well as others.

Please let us know when it's going to be published as I would like to read it.


September 30, 2005 11:09 pm  
Blogger Rachel said...

Thanks Clarte - it's out 2nd October. I'll try and link to it if it goes online.

Just off to check your blog!

September 30, 2005 11:27 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Rachel,

I'm looking forward to reading your article on sunday.

But can I say, as someone who was on a victoria line tube when the bombs went off - we got as far as highbury and islington - I think you should definitely put in a claim for compensation.
There isn't a fixed amount of money available - so you wouldn't be taking it off people who need it more. And I think it's important not to assume that only physical injuries count.
Well, I've been reading your blog so I know that you know that, but I just got the feeling you might need to hear it from someone else!

If you don't need the money, you can pass it on, but I'd rather my taxes be used for "public expressions of sympathy" for the people affected than a lot of other things they are being used for!

Anyway, whatever you choose to do, good luck! and I hope you keep writing here and elsewhere!


October 01, 2005 12:00 am  
Blogger @nashvag said...

"The thing is, you don't have to say anything".

Sound advice. I have to go to a funeral tomorrow, and there's nothing more awkward than saying something corny and feeling like a fake for having said it.

I'll just be there to listen.

By the way, congratulations on the Times article. Will check back for that later.

October 02, 2005 8:53 am  

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