Monday, October 31, 2005

Final media push

Tomorrow is the Memorial Service at St.Pauls for the victims of the London bombings. I'm going with two girls from kingscrossunited andwe'll meet up with other passengers at a pub for lunch. Then we'll all go to the service; many of us sitting together in a long row. Jane has made some little badges for us to wear. I am very proud to be in the group, now there are 50 joined and 19 waiting to join , so we have reached 10% of the people on the train.

This is what happened to make the group for Piccadilly line passengers start up

The first thing was me writing about what had happended on the urban75 website - the posts that started it all when I first sat down and had to write what had happened on my train to work on 7th July
Then the BBC diary that ran in the week of the bombs ( they picked up on the posts on U75 message board & asked me to write for them. They kept the bloglink up and still archive that diary I wrote for them on the main bombing news part of the site. People still visit from there.

The Sunday Times was the first thing I ever wrote professionally, based on the diary kept since 7th July. One of the features team, Deirdre had come across this blog and asked me to write a piece about compensation. I said no, but that we at Kings Cross United (KCU) would like to let -passengers on our train, those trapped underground for half an hour with the choking smoke and the screams, know we were here so could I write about that? I wrote a tribute to the bravery of my fellow passengers. They put the blog address and the KCU email

Grazia* - then asked me to write a feature having read the Sunday Times thing. I was most proud of that piece, it was 2000 words and they didn't cut a thing.

Then BBC 5 Live - made a whole evening programme about the bombs. Other passengers and people were involved on 7th July spoke in this moving programme, and they offered to put a link to this blog after I called in and said about if anyone listening was on the train we had a group of passengers so they could meet up if they wanted.

Nest, a GMTV interview with Lorraine Kelly on LK Today. That was mad. We weren't going to do it, and I said no, because we didn't think people from the train would be watching her. We thought they'd all have left for work. But loads of new KCU people joined because of that 3 minute interview and I think we got more response from that than anything else.

London Tonight ( ITN) did a short piece on the evening of the 25th October, then I had a call from

BBC World Service Everywoman: they got in touch after having seen Lorraine Kelly I think

The Evening Standard *asked me to write the story of several of the passengers - it was not only the people in carriage one who were deeply traumatised - (both this and Grazia pieces on the blog)

and finally, on television BBC News/BBC News 24 where the interview I did will be repeated tomorrow . Main showing is 12pm BBC News 24 and 1pm News, and will be repeated on BBC News services throughout the day. The BBC are covering the whole service live on BBC1 from 2.40pm until 4pm, and simultaneously on Radio 4 .

It was only the BBC that was sensitive enough to say: we won't interview service attendees - bereaved and survivors and emergency service/police/London Underground staff on November 1st. We realise that this is a big day for you and want to leave you in peace.

You can listen to the service live on the internet stream of BBC Radio 4 and if you are in London , then you can gather in Trafalgar Square to watch the service live, where we all gathered on 14th July Vigil, and when the Olympic result was announced a week before.

Every piece that was done with the media had the same rationale behind it: we discussed it all as a group and we said we wanted to to get the email address out and tell survivors we existed, so they could come to the pub if they wanted. Everything else, and there were a lot of requests, we turned down. If we didn't think that it might reach people from the train, no dice.

I won't be sorry when this is over.

I am fronting the media, but this is a team effort. One of the group set up the website, another, who is convalescing from an operation ( his 4th since the bombs) is manning the email, loads of people in the group are welcoming new joiners, sharing info, making phone lists. This is by a group, for the group and for others who are joining. God, sounds like a cult. It's not. It is just people from the train, going to the pub and emailing, because it was terrifying and it is isolating, and it shouldn't have happened, and it did, so let's look after each other.

It's not only me being a media tart, thank god.Rich ( aka 'Ian') who was badly injured from the group did a fantastic interview with Frank Gardener on BBC Radio 4, ( Gill Hicks also spoke and it is one of the most moving interviews you will ever hear) and Paul from the group has done something with the BBC about what to do to be helpful in an emergency ( a campaign to encourage people to learn practical skills and offer practical help rather than clog up emergency helplines for desperate relatives offering useless help, which is what happened on 7.7)

I am having tomorrow off and even if it would reach more people, I can't do any more, because I need the time to think and grieve privately and can't do that if I am on media duty. No-one wants to, tomorrow is a special day, and I want to be there, present, feeling it.

I am proud that Kings Cross United has orchestrated a PR campaign worth thousands - hundreds of thousands - and that we have tripled in size as a group - and we've done it all by ourselves. It has worked almost faultlessly.

Just one thing went wrong.

I am gutted, and so is everyone else in the group about the Evening Standard choosing to superimpose the picture of us smailing in the pub onto the bombed first carriage where 26 died and dozens were maimed. It was extraordinarily callous and tasteless and distressing, and there have been many anguished and angry emails to me and the rest of the group about it. People were in tears. I feel terrible; it was the only thing I couldn't control. We posed in a pub specially, we had men and women of all ages volunteer to turn up to show that we are an ordinary group of survivors who meet in a pub - to encourage others to feel comfortable about coming forward. (So many people, especially men, dislike the idea of counselling, but coming to a pub for a drink is an easy, natural thing to do. We had full agreement from the Standard team about where we posed). And then to have us all pictured smiling against the background of a mass murder scene! It was really upsetting and I am so angry and disappointed, after working so hard all weekend to make the feature right. And the people who trustingly posed and told me their stories, feel dreadful about it.

Still, even despite the awful picture, a good many people have found us and for that I am grateful. We are going to write a letter to the Standard, dozens of the group want to sign it, they were all going to write individually but we decided one letter would be better. And meanwhile, I heard yesterday from the girl who I stood next to when the bomb went off. We talked to each other on the train, she walked behind me on the tracks. I am so happy that I have heard from her. She found me through this website, and urban 75, where it all started.

After tomorrow is over, I can write about other things on this blog. I had a Halloween party at the weekend. I have some wonderful pictures of us in fancy dress. Next weekend I have an urban/dance music awards do to go to. I'd like to write about them. The bombs have been so much a part of my life, and after tomorrow, I hope to take some steps away from them. They an dthe after effects willl always be with me. But there are so many more things I want to live, and think about, and write about. And after tomorrow, I can.

Piece in Grazia magazine


They were ordinary commuters who had nothing in common apart from their daily journey on the London Underground. Then 7/7 happened. Now Rachel North, who was on the train, tells how the passengers of the Piccadilly line train have formed lasting bonds.

I’m laughing and raising my glass to the people at my table. Looking at us, you would think we were old, old friends. We haven’t stopped talking since we sat down in this pub. There’s an intensity about our conversation that might make you think we have a lot to catch up on, a lot to share. And you’d certainly be right about that.

Three months ago, the people I’m now sharing a bottle of wine with all caught the same morning train as me. I didn’t know any of them then, but we were all crushed together on the 8.50am south-bound London Underground train from Kings Cross. Now we are all part of a special group called Kings Cross United.

Today I’m having a pub lunch with some of the women from the group. There’s nearly forty of us now in Kings Cross United, and the group is still growing. We keep in very regular contact. Often we are send each other several emails a day. We talk about normal things. We make arrangements to go to the pub. We ask about each other’s work and holiday plans. But we also ask each other things that you might think are odd. We ask each other how we sleep, especially how we dream. We swap hints about managing panic attacks. We enquire about each other’s hearing. We share stories – some of us can’t bear the smell of plastic bags, or burning rubber, or peroxide. Others flinch when they hear a siren. Some of us won’t travel on Thursdays.

All of us are afraid when we travel on a train.

One sunny Thursday morning in July, our lives were changed forever. Since then, we’ve all had to face things worse than we’d ever imagined. We’ve all faced the prospect of our own imminent death, from suffocation, or burning, a hundred feet below ground. We have listened to the screams of the injured, and we have been unable to help the dead and dying. We’ve stood together in the darkness, wondering if we would ever be rescued. We’ve held hands, calmed and comforted each other, shared our water and tissues as the temperature rose and the oxygen looked like it was about to run out. We’ve smashed windows, escaped from the darkness of a bombed train, and walked down narrow tracks misty with smoke, telling each other that we would be okay, that we would be safe when we reached the end of the tunnel. We have told each other, time and time again, not to give up, not to panic, because we would be all right in the end. And now we are more than fellow passengers. We are more than survivors of London’s worst-ever terrorist atrocity. Now we are Kings Cross United, and these people are my friends.

Here are some of us eating lunch together. Jane, who works in an advertising agency, who set up the website that is our lifeline, who welcomes new joiners with warmth and compassion. Smiling Kirsty, who came back to work, then realised she was exhausted by the stress of pretending that she was fine. Barbara, Angela and Amy, so relieved to be here, who found us only last week, and who had been frantic to find others like them. Emily, a legal secretary whose irrepressible cheerfulness masks her fear. And me, a 34 year old Media Director, who became an anonymous writer after 7th July and who told the story of the week of the bombings first to the readers of urban 75, a London-based message board, and then to hundreds of thousands s through the BBC news website. That was how the first survivor found me. That was how Kings Cross United started. But I’m jumping ahead.

I didn’t know that things would turn out this way as I squeezed myself into the first carriage of the packed Piccadilly line train. There were severe delays that day, I’d never seen the tubes so crowded. Three trains passed that were impossible to board and I swore as I looked at my watch. If I didn’t get a move on I’d be horribly late. So I boarded the train - THAT train.

I’m sure you have heard the story of what happened to my journey as the train pulled out of Kings Cross and a young man, ten feet away from me, detonated his rucksack bomb, killing himself and twenty five others, maiming and wounding dozens more on my carriage. . The reports flashed round the world. The almighty bang, the choking smoke that filled the carriage, plunging us all into terrifying darkness. There were somewhere between 700- 900 passengers trapped in that stricken tube, in the dark, breathing in blood-filled toxic smoke and grit that hurt our throats. We stood crowded together for over half an hour. It felt like many, many years.

What we share is the knowledge of what happened in that darkness. And this is the miracle of the bombed Piccadilly line train. You would think that there would have been utter terror and despair after the bomb and I believe that was the terrorists’ aim. But something else happened, something that will always make me proud to have been there, with those people, on that train, on that day.

After the bomb exploded, none of us knew what had happened and almost all of us thought that we were going to die. Almost nobody said that though, they just thought it to themselves. I know this, because I have talked to the survivors and heard their stories, and they are stories of quiet heroism. People tried very hard not to panic. When people did panic, other people calmed them down. They shared water, and helped each other cover their mouths and noses to protect themselves from the smoke, and they even told jokes. Above all, in the darkness, people talked to each other. Bonds were formed on that train that we who were there will never forget. I will never forget a man’s calm voice in the darkness telling me that the driver was alive, that we were going to escape out of the front of the driver’s cab and walk to Russell Square. I passed that message back into the carriage, and thirty or so of us were able to walk to safety.

When I got home after having my cuts stitched at hospital, I threw myself into the arms of my partner, euphoric to be alive. I washed off the soot – the bath was black – and I tried to sleep. But I couldn’t sleep. Instead I went to the computer and typed an account of what had happened that day and posted it on an internet message board. As I typed, I wondered what had happened to my fellow-passengers, how they were feeling. I was still pounding with adrenalin and feeling falling over-tired. I wished that I could talk to them. Already the experience felt like a horrifying dream.

On Monday, I received an email from a man named Mark who had read my story. He had been on my train – he had been on the same carriage as me! We arranged to meet, and he and his wife came round and sat in my garden with my partner and I. We talked and talked. Mark’s was the calm voice who had told me about the driver getting us out of the front of the train. It was unbelievable, but he had helped to guide us to safety. And even more extraordinary, he had already got back on a train!

On Tuesday, quivering with fear, I decided to try to go back to work on the train too. I was almost crying because I was so afraid, even though I hung onto my partner’s arm tightly and drew deep comfort from his reassuring presence. Noticing my distress, a man leaned forward and introduced himself. His name was Eamon, and he had also been on my train! We were both suffering on that journey, but meeting each other made the journey bearable. I felt astonishingly fortunate to have met two such brave and inspirational fellow passengers, and to have shared our stories. They had the same terrifying memories, they were facing the same fears. I drew strength from that.

I decided to keep writing my story, anonymously because it was OUR story – the story of all of the people from the train. I wondered if it would somehow help people find each other, so they could share their experiences. And then the BBC contacted me and asked me to write my survivor diary on the BBC website. Suddenly, my testimony had a much bigger audience, and it was being read by people who had been on the train.

A week after the bombs, several more survivors had got in contact and we stood shoulder-to-shoulder at the Memorial Vigil. We decided to go to the pub at the end of the month. As the first fortnight after the bombs passed, more survivors emerged. Each had the same need to talk, to try and understand the incomprehensible.

Jane and I met each other for the first time that night. We were the first to arrive at the pub. We bought a bottle of rose and talked. I saw in her a lively, courageous woman, with sparkling eyes who was facing her own shock and fear with humour and compassion. Around the pub table, people from the train sat down and talked and talked, eyes ablaze as they relived the terror and drank to the simple joy of being alive.

That night, Jane met Becky, another young woman from her carriage. Recognising each other from what they had said – it had been too dark to identify each other’s faces – they fell into each others arms, delighted to have survived and found each other.

‘It was a hugely emotional moment,’ Jane told me. ‘We had both been there and we had been through it together. Later, after the pub, I remembered running and skipping round my flat, saying to myself – I’m not alone! I’m not a freak! I was really there! It was real – not a strange nightmare. I’d felt that I was almost going mad before – the sleepless nights, the shock, the crying. Nothing before had prepared me for the aftermath of the experience – but now I knew I was not alone. What I was feeling was happening to everybody’

It was clear that there was a need for survivors to continue to meet and talk. Jane and I realised that our communication training from our advertising jobs meant we had skills that we could use to help other survivors. Jane offered to help set up a website so we could all keep in contact. This proved invaluable as more people heard about the group and joined. Every person who joined said the same thing. ‘It is such a relief to know that I am not alone in feeling as I do’. Kings Cross United, the group for people from the bombed Piccadilly line train was up and running.

Almost three months later, Jane and I went to a wine bar and reviewed the weeks since we had met, we talked of the friends we had made. Jane said something I will always remember ‘Now I have met others, I have seen our strength, I know how to recover’.

Loved ones and friends, colleagues and neighbours have been wonderfully supportive, and I will always be grateful for the love and compassion I have been shown. But there are some things that I can only talk about with other survivors. And this is the only survivor group in existence that has their own lively website, regular meetings, a strong community of support. When I am afraid, I know that I can still find comfort and support from the people who held each other’s hands in the dark, and who told each other not to be afraid, that help was coming. Help did come – from each other. We rescued each other from terror on that day and we rescue each other still.

July 7th has changed my life. I’ve started to write, and millions of people have read the story of the bombs – my anonymous story, which could be anyone’s story from the train. I’ve seen how commuters become heroes, how strangers become friends. Now, when I travel on a train I know that if the unimaginable happens, then the grace of my fellow passengers means I need not despair. I have been given so many reasons to feel hope for the future.

There are thirty eight people now in Kings Cross United, and more are joining each week. On November 1st we are going to the Memorial Service in St. Paul’s Cathedral for the bomb victims. We are going to sit together, the strangers from the train who have shared so much. And afterwards, we are going to the pub. As Jane said, we know how to recover now. We have time, we have determination, and most of all, we have each other.

If you were on the Piccadilly line train and would like to meet Kings Cross United, email
Rachel’s diary continues at

Saturday, October 29, 2005

This is not the Kings Cross United website...

...this is my personal online diary, that I started after 7th July. You can scroll down to the very bottom of the page to find the archived entries starting on July 7th ( the website template is a little out of kilter and I am getting advice on how to fix it).

Kings Cross United, (which now numbers 60 since our taregted media awareness blitz, designed to let fellow-passengers know we exist was executed over a 24 hour period Tuesday 25th last week) , has its own PRIVATE website and email group.

If you were on the Piccadilly line train which was bombed, you can email and one of the Kings Cross United passengers will get back to you and invite you to join our private website and email group, that is not accessible to anyone apart from those who are members of Kings Cross United, the group of fellow passengers who were on the 8.50am Piccadilly line train leaving Kings Cross on 7th July.

Well-wishers, Scientologists, personal injury lawyers, PR people and a very great many journalists have also taken to emailing the address.

Please note, we did a small amount of carefully chosen work with the media, choosing outlets ( mags, TV , radio) carefully designed to reach people who were traveling on the train so we could let them know that we existed. We've achieved that now, and all other media is being declined. We appreciate the best wishes of people who have contacted us but ask that you leave the email address solely for the people who were actually involved on the day - that can include rescue workers as well - as the address is being manned by volunteers ( all survivors) and it is a lot of work.

You can always leave a comment on this blog and I will forward it to the Kings Cross United members



Monday, October 24, 2005

On November 1st

On November 1st there is a Service of Remembrance following the London bombings of 7 July 2005. It will be held in St. Paul's Cathedral, capacity 2300. The Queen, will be there, the great and the good. And the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. (You may have read about a hoo-haa that was in some of the papers about the bombers' families being invited. They weren't.)

Anyway. I chased up the Department of Culture, Media and Sport who are organising the gig and asked if people from Kings Cross United could come, 'or was it just for VIPs?'. No, it was for survivors as well as bereaved, and also for the LU staff, the police, the emergency services, all who helped on that day. Good.

After a bit of faffing, and emailing back and forth, 20 tickets were secured and the DCMS were helpful and so were the Red Cross, and now 20 of us are going to sit together in a row , and then go to the pub and more people will join us. Some of Kings Cross United were already on the list for tickets; if you were injured, if you'd contacted the Red Cross, or went to the Victoria 7/7 Family Liason Centre, or if you had applied for charitable relief, or for compensation I think you got put on a database.

(Or you were meant to have been; the Data Protection Act stymied a lot of well-intended efforts, as did the general confusion following 7th July. People like me, for example, who had given statements to the police, had my name and details and photo taken at a hospital, had been to the Victoria 7/7 Liason Centre, called the Red Cross, called the helpline, been to the NHS Trauma Clinic, and generally done quite a bit one way or another since the unfortunate altercation with Al Quaeda, still weren't on the damn list. Or lists. )

Anyway, got there in the end, and the Service will be an important marking point for many of us. Including me.

Some of us in KCU are a bit apprehensive about what it will be like, and a KCU member sent an email round, saying she had felt 'awfully down', but had also 'not had much emotion', and had been in tears on the Tube, and it felt like the first few weeks after the bomb, all over again. She wondered whether it could be the up-coming Remembrance service. She was worried about how it might affect her, how emotional she might feel, how others were feeling

I had been thinking something similar myself. Recently, I have been more upset than I was in the numb weeks after the bomb, when I couldn't cry.

Her email got me thinking, and I replied

I think I will feel very sad too and I have booked the next morning off after the service. But I also know that human beings need rituals like funerals, services of remembrance to mourn and process things, and to commemorate the passing of time and the losses that we feel. And that is why we have buried our dead and remembered triumphs and tragedies for thousands of years.

It is one of the things that makes us human. So, although it is sad, I think I need to grieve, and in a way I welcome the chance to do so on November 1st. If you don't grieve, it is easy to stay frozen and locked into your sadness. And that ultimately makes it harder to heal, and harder to engage with life full-heartedly afterwards.

Don't worry if you feel emotional. I'm sure we all will. I know I will. Hundreds of thousands of people do, that is why the BBC are broadcasting the service, because so many people want to mark the occasion. That is why there was a 2 minute silence a week after the bombs.

Did you know November 1st is the Hispanic/Mexican Day of the Dead? In many parts of the world, people feel sad about people they love who have died on that day but they also feast and celebrate in their honour. They feel that they are with them too - they even set places at the table for them. Perhaps we can take a cue from them. It is a time for remembrance and sadness, but it is also a time to be together and share our feelings about life and to feel very alive.We can all hold hands and pass tissues. And afterwards, we can go to the pub.

On November 1st I will stand shoulder to shoulder with my fellow passengers once more. I will think of all of those who did not step off the train, the dead, the injured, those we had to leave behind in the dark. And after the prayers have been said, I will pour a glass for those not with us, I will drink to them, and maybe for a short while, I will feel them at our side.

I don't know who held my hand in the dark on that train. But I drink to them too, and to all of my fellow passengers, whether they can be with me on November 1st, at the service, at the pub, whether they are at my side or not, wherever they are.

Piece for the paper

As they prepare for the Remembrance Service for the London Bombings victims, survivors tell of the bonds they have formed

On November 1st, in St Paul's Cathedral there is a Service of Remembrance following the London bombings of 7th July 2005. I will attend with some of my fellow passengers from the bombed Piccadilly line train,standing shoulder to shoulder as we remember the dead and injured, all those who never finished their journey. Three months ago, a suicide bomb blast tore through our train, killing 26 people, wounding dozens of us as we stood crowded together in six packed tube carriages. We found ourselves choking on thick smoke, trapped in darkness, 100 feet below street level. We believed that we would die together, from smoke inhalation, gas or fire. As we prepared for the worst, we tried to give each other hope and comfort.

My name is Rachel North and I was standing eight feet away from the bomb when it exploded behind me in carriage one. I was hurled to the floor, temporarily blinded, deafened as shards of glass and metal rained down. It was no longer air that I breathed, but black, gritty, blood-filled smoke. There was silence for a few seconds. Then a terrible screaming.

I heard my voice and other voices saying ‘Don’t panic, keep calm’. I took a woman’s hand and we struggled to stand in the darkness, as disorientated as if we’d been plunged deep underwater. Somehow, amidst the horror, people were trying to help each other. Using the light from mobile handsets to see, those of us who could still walk moved forward in single file as the driver forced open his cab door and helped us off the train. Black with soot and dazed with shock, we staggered down the smoky tunnel to Russell Square, telling each other to keep going, that help would come soon.

After being treated for cuts and shock, after the long hot shower at home, I couldn’t sleep until I’d written down what had happened to me. Perhaps some of my fellow passengers would read it. I wondered how they were now, the people who saved each other from panic when our world exploded. I posted an account of the day on a busy London website.

Amazingly, a man who had been on my carriage, a foot away from me, read it. He got in contact, we met on the Monday after the Thursday bombs, and through talking, realised how much it meant to find other survivors. The shock, the screams, the taste of the smoke that haunted us – there are some things only those who were there understand.

The BBC news website team read my account, and asked if I would write a daily survivor diary for them. Suddenly my account of the week of the bombs was reaching millions. More survivors got in contact via email and we set a date to meet in a pub at the end of July.

That first meeting was very emotional. We had a plan of the train, and we marked where we had stood. We couldn’t stop talking. It felt like a family reunion, not strangers from a train. Jane, one of the group offered to set up a website so we could keep in touch. This became our lifeline. And that is how Kings Cross United came about, run by Piccadilly line survivors, for survivors. The group now provides support for nearly forty people, men and women, of all ages and backgrounds, from every carriage of the Kings Cross tube.

But over 700 people were on that train with us. I wonder how many of our fellow passengers still struggle to deal with what happened that day? How many people lie awake, remembering the bang, the smell of the smoke, the screams? Here are some of our stories – some of the voices from the darkness of the bombed Underground train. If you were there, if you recognise your story, our contact details are on page xx

Jamie 30, CSP Students Officer, Finchley, Carriage 2
' I'd tried to get on the first carriage, but it was too crowded so I squeezed into the carriage two instead. I later found out that I was initially queuing behind the suicide bomber. I was lucky I couldn't fit on- it probably saved my life. When the bomb went off, I thought of my girlfriend and I was glad I was on my own, because I didn't want anyone else I loved to die with me. I was so sure that I said nothing, did nothing after the bomb exploded, but from talking to other people in Kings Cross United who were on my carriage, I have since discovered that I was calm and I talked to people and tried to force open the doors to get some air in - I must have been in shock because I remember nothing of this!

After more than 20 minutes an LU worker suddenly appeared and said 'There's no fire!' And for the first time I realised that maybe I wasn't going to die. Once at Kings Cross I was struggling for breath, and a passer-by, a black man in his twenties gave me his water. I was so shocked I then tried to wander through the police cordon to get to work, but the police ushered me back to the ticket hall where I was given oxygen, which I shared with a gasping woman who seemed in a worse state than me. We were taken to hospital on buses, and a nurse gave me sweet tea as I sat wrapped in a blanket, icy with shock. I was so sooty that a policeman saw my dreads and my blackened face and mistook my ethnic origin when he took my personal details!

A week after the bombs, I found myself in the Kings Cross Memorial garden and for the first time I broke down. A Salvation Army man held me, saying nothing as I wept, and then a young blonde girl who was a Samaritan hugged me. Though I was nervous before I went to the first survivor pub meeting, when I finally met everyone, huge relief began to wash over me. By the end of the evening we all felt like old friends.'

Eamon, 46, Oriental Rug Buyer, from Bounds Green. Carriage 2
'Two construction workers at Kings Cross station smashed in the locked glass doors of Kings Cross McDonalds so some of us could use the washrooms there. The police gave their permission for the break in, and I think the guys quite enjoyed doing it. I was with two girls from the train - one from Walthamstow and one from a city law firm. I didn't want to go on a bus to hospital, as I wasn't injured. Instead I stayed with the girls and the 2 construction workers in a pub, watching the news. We found out about the other bombs - and wondered how we'd ever get home. Eventually the brother of one of the girls came and gave us all a lift.

I was back at work on the Saturday, but I was like a zombie. I knew I had to get over my fear of using the Underground. On the Tuesday after 7/7, I met Rachel and her boyfriend on the Victoria line. She was white and looked sick. I saw the stitches on her wrist, and we somehow knew we had been on the same train. We talked; swapped email addresses and she sent me the link to her survivor diary. I was just amazed to read the story; it was exactly what I was feeling. I decided to go to the pub and meet other passengers at the end of July. After that meeting, I had my first proper night's sleep. There was a bond between us all, even though we had never met before. The next morning everything felt different. It was uplifting. If Rachel and I hadn't met, perhaps the group would not have formed. But I'm so glad it did - I'm not one for counselling, but this is my counselling.'

Fiona, 22, Journalism Student from Highbury. Carriage 5
'When the bomb went off, I thought the bang was someone falling under the train. I hid under my newspaper, afraid to see splattered blood. Then the smoke poured in. A black lady opposite me in a red suit began to pray, saying 'we are going to die'. I burst into tears, and said to the smartly dressed girl next to me, can I hold your hand? She was called Gem, early twenties, with long blonde hair, a smart skirt and jacket, slim and about 5 '6. We both cried as we told each other everything would be all right. I wondered if anyone could rescue us before we died of smoke inhalation. I wished I could contact my mum and my boyfriend and tell them I loved them. Gem told me to put my jacket over my mouth and nose and someone handed me a tissue. I was unaware of time passing as other passengers struggled to open the doors. Eventually we were rescued and lifted onto the tracks. Later Gem and I checked our sooty faces with a hand mirror - my makeup wasn't just waterproof, but bombproof! At Kings Cross I was checked over and allowed to go, so I walked to Angel where I met my boyfriend.

I found out about Kings Cross United weeks later through, a survivor website. At the pub I found people from my carriage. At first I'd thought I shouldn't be so upset, as I wasn’t near the bomb, but here were people who felt just as shocked as me. Meeting up was the best thing I could have done. It has made me really determined to get a first in my degree. Now if I am down, I say to myself, if you can get through that bomb, you can get through anything.'

Angela, 36, from Enfield. Finance Administrator. Carriage 3
'There were so many people who really helped that day. I will never forget two guys - passengers - who seemed very calm. They smashed and kicked in the glass of the double doors of my carriage. They then climbed out, risking electrocution - we didn't know if the tracks were live. They stayed and helped us get off the carriage until help arrived - they were heroes. When I met others from King's Cross United last week, I finally realised I was not alone in feeling as I do. All I'd read was how 'We are not afraid' - but I was bloody terrified! It was such a relief to find other survivors. I live alone, and though my friends and family say 'call any time', it's not the same - I don't want to tell my family how I thought I was going to die, never see them again.

Normally I'm laid back, but I'm not as strong as I used to be. I'm emotionally up and down - there are bad days when I 'wobble'. I hate sirens, bangs, being hemmed in. I used to sleep six to eight hours every night. Now I wake at 3.00am. I remember the smell of the smoke, the screams. Sometimes I don't sleep at all. It's changed me. I've learned something about myself and other people. That we will get through this. We're stronger than we think, and people are a lot more caring than you'd ever think - even strangers on a train'

Bob, 47, from Southgate. Treasury Dealer. Carriage 5
' I knew when I heard the bang that something very, very serious had happened. Smoke oozed into the carriage, and I heard the piercing screams from further up the train. I thought the people were screaming as they saw a fireball coming down the train. I thought of my wife and three kids, who would look after them when they had no dad. Then I tried to ring 999, but it was no use, we were 100 feet below ground. I covered my face with my jacket. A well-spoken, well-dressed Indian woman, who I think might be a lawyer sat next to me, she was very calm and passed her water bottle around.

People were quiet as they prepared for death. We knelt to conserve the oxygen, as the temperature rose. I waited in silence for the fireball, believing I would soon be consumed. I was almost sick with fear - it felt hopeless. Time passed slowly. Then a man called that he was in touch with carriage 6, and that help was on its way, then someone else called out 'The smoke is clearing!' Suddenly people rose, and we began to exit the carriage. A police officer and a LU official helped us out of the train and we walked down the tunnel to Kings Cross station. Commuters looked at us oddly as we came up the escalator, covered in black soot. I sat on the floor of the ticket hall, as people came in covered in blood. We went to hospital on a bus. I met a young girl in the hospital who'd been on a hairdressing course and was desperate to get to college; I think she had her graduation. She was trendily dressed, with short dark hair. I hope she got the opportunity to graduate! After giving a statement to police, I was eventually taken home in an ambulance with three girls. Two young uniformed nurses, one blonde, one brunette tried to keep us cheerful; they stopped to buy petrol and had to scrape together their change to buy some to get us home.

I had two weeks off after the bombs. I wanted to enjoy my family, sit in my garden. There's such pleasure now in everyday things. Live for today, that's what I say. Don't put things off. I'm not angry. We were in the wrong place at the wrong time. I don't feel like a victim. I just feel lucky.'

If you were on the Piccadilly line train, you can email us at Help is available for anyone affected by the London bombings at, or, call 0845 054 7444 ( 24 hours) Rachel's survivor diary continues at

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Does anyone know how to...

...get the 'About me' , the links and the archive index to appear on the top left of the page instead of being right at the bottom of the blog?

And does anyone know how to re-size photos?

Thanks for any help anyone can give. I have no idea what I am doing with making the blog prettier and more user-friendly, but I could really do with some ideas...

EDIT: OH GOD! Look at it! I tried to sort it out and it is a TOTAL mess! Help! Help, anyone? What do I do?


Media schmedia

Yesterday I met up with 5 Kings Cross United people at a pub so we could have our picture done for the London Evening Standard piece.Both new members and long-standing members were there . Eamon, who I met the Tuesday after our train blew up when we were both on our way to work, both looking sick and white with fear, Angela, who I met for the first time last week when she joined the group and came to the Grazia magazine shoot, Fiona, who came to the last KCU pub session, having emailed me half an hour before it started to ask if she could join the group and if we were meeting anytime soon. ( 'Yes' , I emailed back 'in 20 minutes. Can you make it?' She did.) Jamie, who read my BBC diary days after 7/7 and left a comment on the BBC website, so we tracked each other down. And Bob, who joined a few days ago.

We got the Standard pictures out of the way, with me hiding at the back , because I'm not supposed to be the main focus of the Evening Standard piece - it's about how we are looking to track down more survivors and people who helped us on the day. It's quite tricky because of course it is essentially the same story - the story of 7/7 and setting up KCU - but Grazia and the Standard both want different angles. Which is fair enough. So Grazia, being a weekly glossy magazine for 20-30-something urban women has the story of the women in the group , howJane set up the website, how I wrote the diary, the powerful friendships we have formed. And the Standard, being the biggest London paper carries the story on how we are looking for other survivors, other commuters ('who may well be reading the Standard!' I said chirpily to the features editor.) For the Standard we tried to show that we are a group of men AND women, of all ages. I hope it will encourage men to join if they want. A lot of blokes are not keen on counselling, and all that beardy-stroking stuff but hopefully if they see three blokes having a pint in a pub with three women they might think that KCU could be something they can feel more comfortable with. It is, after all, about going to the pub. With the people you thought you were going to die next to. Beer Not Afraid.

The piece I wrote for the Standard is posted underneath. It is hard to condense everything into 2000 words.

Each person's story deserves to be a chapter in a book, not a paragraph in a newspaper article. I have edited like mad but even so it is too long. I was there for 5 hours listening to everyone's stories and writing pages of notes and talking. It was moving, inspiring, harrowing, and even blackly funny. I especially loved Fiona's comment as she described walking down the tunnel having finally got out of the carriage ' I thought, well, at least I'm from Bradford and I am used to seeing rats waddling around.'

Every time I feel exhausted, everytime I wonder if I am re-traumatising myself listening to all the stories people have to tell, something excellent happens. Someone will join the group, and say something like ' I am so relieved. I thought I was the only one feeling like this.' And it all feels worthwhile.

I think, of all the things that I have ever been involved with, writing the stories of the people on the train after the bomb, witnessing not only the horror but the hope afterwards is the best thing that I have ever done. In 2002 I was attacked and I reported him, a sadistic violent predator to the police, even though I didn't know who he was, and knew it might involve a harrowing legal ordeal. In 2004 I stood in a witness box and faced him down in a trial, knowing that these sorts of trials have an incredibly low chance of conviction, and I won, and he went down for 15 years, sparing god knows how many future victims his unspeakable savagery and thus avoiding their pain. I always thought that was the most difficult thing I would ever have to do, and also the thing I was most proud of in my whole life. But this is better.

The group is not about me, Rachel. It is not a vanity project, or my personal therapy. It has an energy of its own, and I lean on it as much as anyone else. But if I hadn't written the story, and put it out there, then other passengers wouldn't have read it and got in touch and we wouldn't have gone to the pub, and Jane wouldn't have set up the website, and new people wouldn't be emailing in like they did this week, and saying' I am so glad I found you' and 'I am crying with relief' and getting ten messages back from other passengers going, 'welcome mate, it's all right, we understand.'

It makes me almost cry thinking about it. Thank god I wrote that account for urban 75. Thank god Mike the site editor noticed it and put it on the boards, and that Mark saw it, the first passengerI heard from, who was in my carriage, feet away, and we met and I realised how much I needed, we needed, everybody on the train needed to find other people who'd been there too. Thank god I met Eamon on the train the week after 7/7. Thank god the BBC got me to write that diary, that so many millions of people read it, that I suddenly got the confidence to write and keep writing, that people wanted to read it. Thnk god that the people I have met who were on my train are so brave, and so generous. All of this has changed my life and it has helped me, and it has helped others. It is all great.

Anyway, that's all the media done now, from my point of view. I don't want to do TV interviews, appear on talk shows, be filmed commenting on the Bombings Memorial Service for the BBC . I don't want to be on RTE Irish radio, Swiss television, in documentaries, on sofas, have my diary made into a play. I don't want to be interviewed for glossy magazines. Thanks. But no.

I've got the message out, as tactically and as evocatively and as compassionately as I can. Other group member are flyering, doing radio, helping to man the email account. We've done our best, whilst trying to protect ourselves and each other. Now it is up to people to find us.

This has all taken up an average of twenty - thirty plus hours a week. It's like having two jobs. I'm glad I did it but I do need a break. I liked my old life, before I took all this on. I need to relax, have my normal life back. I do still want to write, I'm glad I started writing, but I want to write what I want now. I want time to see my friends and family. I have a dance course starting on Tuesday. Work is very busy. I desperately want to see my boyfriend - we have both worked for the last two weekends and done late nights every week. I want to go and visit my family in Norfolk. I'm having a Halloween fancy dress party next Saturday ( theme: anything you want to dress as, just look EVIL. So, Evil Waitress or Evil Movie Diva for me). I'm joining a local gym with a swimming pool on Monday night. I want to get fit. I need to clean out the fish and sort out the garden for winter, paint the bedroom and see how much my friend's baby has grown. It's time to step away from the big KCU awareness push and try not to think about the bombings so much. Time for me to do other stuff.


The Evening Standard and Grazia are out on Tuesday 25th at all good London newsagents. Over and out.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

hey butterfly

I don't know if this has changed my life.

Ok. Yes it has.

It has made me write, for a start

I wrote what I would have wanted to read, I did what I wanted someone to do for me. Setting up the group. Hearing that it was going to be all right in the end. Hearing that other people felt the same way too. That's what I wanted, and if it wasn't there, then why not make it happen?

I don't want to be alone, shocked, frozen, despairing. I don't want to think of other people being like that. I can remember, I know, what it is like to feel like that.

I remember how reading about other people coped helped me, calmed me, when the world caved in in 2002. Hearing their stories meant not being on my own.

I can remember what it is like after something terrible happens. You don't trust your feelings and you think you are going mad, and I don't want to think of it being like that for other people. I didn't want it to be like that for me. So that was why I started writing what had happened. Because I believed it would help.

And it has changed my life. But, this is the important thing. It wasn't the bomb that changed my life, it was my reaction to the bomb, and other people's reaction to the bomb.

After the bomb went off I allowed my life to change. I changed it myself.

It doesn't have to be a bomb that changes your life. It doesn't have to be nearly being killed that makes you stop, and evaluate. It doesn't have to be anything as extreme as 7th July that makes you change things and do things you always thought you might quite like to do, one day, when you had time, or energy.

Assuming you have only one life, and no eternity to spend with your regrets, or being punished or rewarded for the decisions you make here and now - and that is what I believe - why not do it? Why not take a chance, write the story, tell that person what you think, speak out? Why not change?

We all love a happy ending, we all love a redemption, a resurrection, metamorphosis, a new beginning. But what I have found is that is very hard to mark the place where the new beginning starts. After the bombshell, the metamorphosis is allowed to happen. People expect it. They phone you up from the radio or the newspaper, or the magazine and ask you how your life has changed. They don't ask if it has changed. They ask, how has it changed.

But in my experience, there aren't many occasions when a bomb goes off in your life and afterwards you can draw a line and say. Before that day. After that day. My life changed.

Sometimes you can, and it is a lucky break. You can build your whole new life around before and after the break happened. But mostly, you go on changing a bit at a time, every day, so you don't even notice. Doing what you want to do, making the small or big change that defines your life when there's no fan fare, no siren, no bombshell is much harder, I think.

I think I had already changed before the 7th July. But the bomb blew my life apart enough for me to see what was possible, and took away the reasons why I shouldn't, mustn't, oughtn't to.

Now I think, why not?

It is an interesting feeling.

The bomb marked a place where I could look back and say, my life changed. But it was already starting to change. The bomb changed things enough fo me to be able to see the changes and to act upon them. It made me simultaneously more vulnerable, and more confident. It made me stop waiting for something to happen to me. It made me be the change I wanted to create.

And I am trying to be glad about that.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

hello to...

Hello to everyone reading the site now as we just approach midnight. I am very excited to see so many vistors from afar. And from Watford, Slough. (I have just discovered sitemeter, having installed it a couple of weeks ago, can you tell?)

A big hello to you in...

Richmond, Quebec
Newtown, Connecticut
Gorham, Maine
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Roligheten, Telemark
Gav, Cataluna
Saint Louis, Missouri
Danbury, Connecticut
Springfield, Illinois

I am very honoured that you dropped in, from such far away places. Can I ask you how you found me? Are you real people or are you spam-bots? If you are real, then I wish you all a very pleasant day/evening? ( I am confused by the time differences so will not attempt to speculate)


I need a break from the bombing stuff.

It is knackering me out. I've been running with my choke pulled out for miles and miles and my engine is starting to grind and smoke.

There's a big push on now though, from us in the survivor group to let other survivors know they can meet fellow-passengers from the train, before the November 1st Memorial Service for the Victims at St. Paul's Cathedral. We're on a bit of a deadline, before the news moves on, which it will soon. (Plus we are seeing that it seems to be about now - 3 months on - that the impact is really hitting people, now that the shock is fading, the emotional blowback kicks in.)

So, Grazia magazine, and the Evening Standard both get a feature , written by me. 2000 words each. Both out 25th October. I have rewritten Grazia because the first piece I wrote was mostly about Jane, who I met a month after the bombs and who set up the website and who is lovely and about how we became friends and how we co-run Kings Cross United. But they wanted first person, so I rewrote it all again. We did the shoot on Saturday with jane, Kirsty, and 2 new KCU ladies, Barabara and Angela, who found the group last week.

I'm outing myself for the first time since I wrote the BBC blog that has had millions and millions of page impressions. I hope that by coming out of anonymity now, I will have missed the worst of the press attention and can get these messages out, then retreat into my normal life.

I must have written god knows how much first person stuff on the bombs. Bombsbombsbombsbombsbloodybombs. It is taking up a lot of my head space. And a lot of my word count. I am aware that this blog site is being put out there as a resource, especially for the next 2 weeks, so I am keeping on topic. For now.

And the writing stuff is forcing me to deal with my emotions about the whole thing: because editors demand emotional viscerality I have to force myself to rip my feelings out of the hard shell and bring them into the story. It is really shattering, especially for me who likes to disengage from her feelings, but probably good for me in some ways.

In other ways it is not good for me at all And it is odd, being both a writer and a survivor. I don't notice many journalists who were bomb victims - and I know of at least three - writing about it. I am not a professional writer, I am not a journalist, maybe that is why I am fool enough to write about it. I don't know how difficult or inadvisable it is supposed to be, so I do it anyway, because I have to write about this, even if I find it painful. Anyone could have got blown up. Anyone could write about it. So why not me?

But, reaching out to other survivors, as well as writing about, other survivors? Trying to do the right thing by them. And at the same time, having to think like a journalist, about the best story, the one the paper or the magazine wants, when what I want to do is tell THE story, our story, as truthfully as I can. And trying to protect us all, and myself. And not wanting to be the enemy; this is not 'material'; this is our lives.

And yet I worry, I don't know if I know what the hell I'm doing and what I'm getting into. I wrote an eyewitness account on an internet message board, whilst in shock. Then for the BBC, when they read it and emailed me. Then for the Sunday Times. Then for Grazia, then the Evening Standard, turned down Marie Claire Australia, Red magazine and the Mirror. That was all writing, not interviews. I mean, ker-ist, that's a hell of a career curve ball. And now the News Director of the Sunday Times wants me to come over for tea to talk about stuff.

Is someone trying to tell me something? Should I chuck in my advertising job - which I love - and try to become a writer, a proper one?

Or do they all just want bombsbombsbombsbombsbombsbombsbloodybombs?

To write your own story is one thing, to write other people's stories when you are aware of what it costs them to tell it, and to you they are not 'sources' or 'material' or 'eye witnesses' or potential Pullitzer prizes but people you care about - people whose recovery and strength inspires your own. That is quite hard.

I was subbing the Grazia piece and reading it as if I were a reader, not the writer, and I let my guard down and the story made me cry. I still can't believe that it is my story, our story.

I am in such a state about the whole damn thing that I can only get touched by it if I deal with it at one remove. Like the war photographer, who records the terrible pornography of violence as an exquisite composition of colour and light behind his camera lens, but whose heart breaks and whose nerve fails if he looks again after he has put the camera down. and has to look at the unfolding scene with his own eyes.

So then I decided to write about the song that makes me cry, and then I decided to have a proper cry, sod it, let it out - so I'm writing, and listening to the music, and actually being properly emotional for once, which is a luxury, really - and then the Evening Standard rang and then Grazia rang, to discuss the copy and push for more detail.

And because the music was playing, and I had been reading the story and feeling it and feeling responsible for it all, I couldn't look through the camera lens at it all and have the distance from the story and I couldn't get my feature-writer head on at all. So I was caught out crying. I think the commissioning editors were embarrassed: commission a snappy, moving bomb exclusive, you don't normally have the writer in tears. But then, the feature writer is not normally telling her own story. She's telling someone else's.

I don't know if I am in a great state to make life changing career decisions, right now. But what if this is my one boat? And I miss it?

I want to write about more than bombs. I want to write other people's stories. There's more to life than bombs. Wait til after the November 1st service, then I can mark that milestone, and let a bit more of this go. See if people want to read anything else I write apart from trauma and recovery stuff. Still, it is there all the time, it informs most of the things I think about right now, so bombsbombsbombs it is, for now.

It's time for other people's stories, not always my own.

There is still much to say, many stories that deserve to be heard. I'm just sick of writing and hearing mine, endlessly.

Which brings me to one of the men from the group, 'Ian', who is one of those stories. that desetves to be heard. He gave a most incredibly moving interview with Frank Gardener, the BBC'S Security Correspondent, who was made paraplegic by a terrorist attack. Frank interviewed Ian for an interview on Broadcasting House programme on Radio4 . Frank Gardner also spoke to the magnificent Gill Hicks whose story appears in the Telegraph and in Grazia this week. Gill lost her legs, but is to be married in December and will walk down the aisle on her new legs, filled with hope and surrounded by love. And Ian was thrown out of the train onto live cabling and burned, and deafened and surrounded by bodies, but survived to tell his story with dignity and warmth.

Both were in my carriage. I am proud to know Ian who is a member of Kings Cross United. You can listen to the programme - click here for the next week, until Sunday 23rd.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Lights will guide you home

I have barely been able to listen to music since the bomb. I can just about manage it in the background of a restaurant or bar, but to sit with concentration and allow myself to feel the beauty of a melody, to be touched by a perfect chord is too damn painful.

However, recently I have started to use music as part of the grieving process. There is one song that is currently in the charts by Coldplay, called 'Fix You'. it almost destroys me to hear it. I am completely unable to listen to it without crying. It is played several times a day on the radio, it is everywhere you go, and I have to struggle with myself whenever I hear it.

Tonight, I decided to listen to it with full attention, and just allow my feelings to surface. To let the music in, and not to fight it anymore. I have just played it three times, and each time has provoked a storm of grief. Real howling weeping, not sniffling; I have lifted up my face, twisted by grief, and the tears have flowed and I have sobbed. It is the second time I have cried properly since the bombs.

Even though I don't normally listen to Coldplay, when I hear this I think of us, Kings Cross United, and all the people from the train, struggling down the tunnel, lit by dim lights, trying to find safety. I think of the rescuers running with torches into the smokey tunnel , not knowing if there were more bombs, or a chemical attack awaiting them, just running anyway, to find scenes of unimaginable horror. Finding the injured and dying and trying their best to 'fix' them.

Of all those who can't sleep. Of all the tears streaming down people's faces.
Of those who did not come home. Of those lost who cannot be replaced.

I thought some of you might want to see and hear the song if you don't know it. For me it is the Kings Cross United anthem. Listening to it is the only time I can cry, but I realise now how I need to cry to get through this. Most of the time I am numb. I have to be, to cope with it all and still go to work. As the shock fades, the grief is too disabling to deal with. I have to let myself cry when there is time, when I have strength to face it, when it is safe to let go.

Here is a link

Chris Martin, the singer, is actually in a railway tunnel in the video, and then outside Kings Cross, so it is especially poignant, I didn't realise this until I watched the video just now.
And here are the words.

Fix You - Coldplay
When you try your best but you don't succeed
When you get what you want but not what you need
When you feel so tired but you can't sleep
Stuck in reverse
And the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can't replace
When you love someone but it goes to waste could it be worse?
Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you
And high up above or down below
When you're too in love to let it go
But if you never try you'll never know
Just what you're worth
Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you
Tears stream down on your face
When you lose something you cannot replace
Tears stream down your face
And I...
Tears stream down on your face I
promise you I will learn from my mistakes
Tears stream down your face
And I...
Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

On being a man with a rucksack...

Jag, a British, European, 2nd-Generation Indian, reflects on normality post 7th July

It was very interesting for me to read about his experiences on the tube, after my panic attack when I noticed a nervous sweaty dark skinned man with a big rucksack. Here's Jag in his experiences

Someone left a comment to a previous posting below - one that pointed me to a BBC News page where readers were invited to feedback their comments on the aftermath of the bombings and attempted bombings. There was one particular piece of feedback that got me thinking. It was by an Asian guy (that means “South Asian” for you North Americans reading this). He said that he had taken to carrying a copy of “The Economist” magazine with him whilst riding the tubes to work and home. The idea being that he couldn’t possibly be a suicide bomber and be reading The Economist. Surely? Anybody suspecting him would soon feel very reassured that he was just an ordinary Londoner - and not a terrorist.
What a great idea I thought to myself. Since I am Asian and carrying a rucksack - I, too, would buy some intellectually-stimulating reading material next time I ride the tubes and buses. That way I could reassure my fellow commuters that I’m a good guy. So I did. The very next day in fact. Exactly 7 days after the attempted bombings on the 21st. A Thursday. The platforms and carriages of the trains at Kingsbury and Wembley Park were deathly quiet that day - and there were police in day-glo yellow jackets EVERYWHERE. I had popped into the newsagents on the High Street right next door to the tube station and pondered at the magazine shelves. What should I buy?
You’re not going to believe this: I bought a copy of “
Wired” magazine. How stupid I felt when I got onto the Jubilee Line at Kingsbury. I had to quickly put the magazine back in my rucksack. And this act in itself invited too much staring. I could hear the alarm bells inside other souls going off.
Damned if you do. Damned if you don’t!

I am not the only one who is afraid.

But facing the fear, and the effects of the fear, with grace and humour is one of the things that makes me immensely glad that I live amongst snotty, busy, mixed-up Londoners. I can't imagine living anywhere else.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

london geezer

london geezer

Corking blog rammed with London lore, life and love.

Fabulous collection of post-7th July quotes

From Steve's Random and Often Belligerent Journal. Includes this highlight:

'When the news reporter said "Shopkeepers are opening their doors bringing out blankets and cups of tea" I just smiled. It's like yes. That's Britain for you. Tea solves everything. You're a bit cold? Tea. Your boyfriend has just left you? Tea. You've just been told you've got cancer? Tea. Coordinated terrorist attack on the transport network bringing the city to a grinding halt? TEA DAMMIT! And if it's really serious, they may bring out the coffee. The Americans have their alert raised to red, we break out the coffee. That's for situations more serious than this of course. Like another England penalty shoot-out'

The Fireman's Story & 3 months on

Here is the story of how Blue Watch ran to the Kings Cross train to help and what they found. ( Warning: it is very harrowing).

And here is a round up of the police investigation so far.

The emergency services and London tube staff have been magnificent.

Survivor meeting

Yesterday I slept really late. I was exhausted and feeling blue.
I caught a bus to Upper St and met Jane, Kirsty and Emily from Kings Cross United at Starbucks and we went to Victoria to attend a survivors meeting that the Red Cross and 7.7.assistance had organised in a grim 1960's building which was Westminster City Hall.

Nobody had the address so before I went I had to call the Red Cross and try to get the details. I hadn't had a letter about this, so they didn't have my name on the list.

(Even though I was statemented at the hospital on 7/7, photographed by the police brandishing my sooty bloodstained bandage with a blackened face and Einstein hair, gave another phone interview to the anti-terrorism hotline on 8/7, did a 4 hour interview with the police in my garden on 9/7, visited the Victoria Familiy Liason Centre for bereaved and survivors in July, have set up Kings Cross United, have called the phoneline several times - they still don't have me on the list. )

Everything I have done for myself and other survivors - chasing about getting psychological assessment from the NHS Trauma Clinic, getting registered with the Health Protection Agency (victim monitoring terrorism effects branch), chasing about getting KCU 20 seats at the November 1st Memorial Service in St Paul's Cathedral - I have had to do mysellf or with other survivors. Thank god for KCU, other people passing information around and helping each other.

I'm angry about it. How many people have fallen through the net? How many forgotten victims? There were between 700-900 people on my train alone.
Who the hell is helping them?

We didn't enjoy the train ride to Victoria but we did it. We got to the City Hall. The meeting was on the 17th floor. Great for people who are terrified of lifts.

'If there is a fire alarm', the organiser trilled brightly, 'it will be real. So you won't be able to use the lifts'

I watched people's eyes darken and their faces visibly wince. Sheesh.

It was a soulless room, and groups of chairs with paper signs saying 'Kings Cross' 'Tavistock Square' 'Edgware Rd' and 'Liverpool St.' There was a buffet. A buffet! That was rather touching. Like a tea served by kindly ladies in a cricket pavillion.

We went over to Kings Cross area and said we were from the train, that we had already set up a group and were hanging out in pubs together, and here was the email: if people wanted to join.

We brought our book with the plan of the train and people added their names so everyone could see where they were and who had been near them. There were about a dozen people there. Including a very nice lady who'd joined us last week.

We have 23 in our group now and 7 more who've been officially invited. So we might go up to 30 plus after today. Out of 900. Well, it's something.

Kings Cross corner was by far the most chatty. We all talked and talked. I recognised a short-haired girl with a composed, sweet face, who had been on my carriage, been injured and who I had seen slumped against a pillar in Russell Square ticket hall. She was only 16. She had been very brave and dignified. A Turkish couple told me of how he and his their son had been on the last carriage. The son, who is 19, had been a student at Kings Cross University. He has not returned to college since the 7th. His mother wept as she talked of her sadness and his isolation.

I gave them the email, said we'd love to have him join us.
'There are lots of nice girls in our group,' I told her, 'see if you can persuade him to come and meet up.' That made her smile, a little.

Several people had not returned to full-time work or to using the tube. It made me realise how far we have come with each other's help. Quite a few people there had read my blog on the BBC. They said it had helped.
I talked to everybody there. It was moving, and exhausting, and afterwards I felt headachey and shakey and sad. And desperately in need of a drink. It is much easier doing these things in a pub

We left just after 4pm. I was so glad the others from KCU were there. It didn't really help me, I felt drained by it all. But I hope it helped other people from the train, we all wanted them to know we were there.

We took the train back, talking about the people we had met and looking at where the new names had been added on the map of the train in our KCU book. As we talked, the whole Victoria line carriage went oddly silent. Everyone was listening to us talking about where we had been in relation to the bomb.

'Maybe we had better be quiet, we're terrifying everyone', I said. We put the book of survivors away, rather guiltily. We made sure we all got off the tube safely, and Kirsty and I went and had a pint in Finsbury Park. We both agreed that we had tried to do something helpful, and were pleased we had made the effort, but were feeling very tired. Kirsty offered to help with the administration of it all as we gear up to work with the papers about getting the story out so people know we exist. Jane and I had met last week and discussed media strategy, getting the message out. She has been brilliant, setting up the website. KCU are a good team.

I had been looking forward to going to my friend's birthday party later. But when I got home my head felt like it was going to explode, and I was almost in tears with the tiredness and the sadness of it all. It is a big responsibility, worrying about all these people.

I know why I am doing it: by worrying about other people I am worrying about myself at one remove. Since that bomb went off I have been trying to keep myself calm by keeping other people calm. Get myself off the train by getting other people off the train. Help myself by helping other people. My compassion for them is a way fo me feeling compassion for myself.

If I stop and think about myself, it takes over and it is too overwhelming. I'm not a saint: this is me trying to deal with it in a safe way. I can't stop and feel how crap it all is, I won't be able to work, laugh, live my life, I'll just spiral down and get depressed. I've been there before and I am not going there again. The most dangerous thing is to ask 'why me?'. So I'm trying not to ask that.

Why not me? Why not me twice? Does it mean anything that I have been blown up in 2005, and left for dead in 2002 by an intruder? Both totally random, horribly violent incidents. (Both, wierdly as it turns out, attacks by Jamican teenagers.) Do I feel lucky? Do I feel cursed? Do I feel terrified by Jamaican teenagers? No.

Does the full-blown PTSD need to return? Is there anything positive I can bring out of all this horror?


I know, this time, what PTSD is, how disabling, how alienating. I know how talking or writing it out helps. I know that no-one should have to feel alone. I know how damaging it is when you do feel alone.

I know that trauma and wounds do get better, eventually, and I know something about how to help them get better faster.

I know how much I love life and how much I love people and how much I am loved.

I know that I can survive a terrible beating and violation and a bomb exploding feet away.

I know that if people look after each other it gets better. If you let them look *after you it gets better ( *Something I still find hard)

I still believe most people are good, and kind, and helpful, and brave. Especially when things get really bad. I hold onto that.

It's a beautiful day. I'm going to wake up my beloved with a kiss and make coffee and sit in the garden and laugh at Miff the cat crashing in the ivy on the garage roof, failing to catch birds. Then I'm going to town to buy some new jeans and some winter boots.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Kings Cross United

I'm posting this because there's now a link from Radio 5 Live to this blog, and there is a programme that is going on right now about the 7th July, 3 months on to the day.

If you were on the Piccadilly line train that exploded at 8.51am on 7th July you can meet fellow passengers by emailing

Last night Kings Cross United met up for the third time in a North London pub. We had many new members, and we were so glad to meet them.

We all talked about what it was like on the train, the trains vs. bus dilemma - how the hell do you get to work ? - and we talked about what it was like to be panicking, in pain, terrified for our lives, 100 feet down.

Then we all bought each other drinks, and talked about life now. It really helped. Everybody said it helped. It was a huge relief to talk to others who were there. There was a wonderful moment when people from carriage 3 all found each other.

Why are we only Kings Cross United, not 7th July United? Mainly because the Kings Cross group were trapped underground, in the dark, in the choking smoke, with only the strangers next to each other for comfort. For over half an hour, hearing the screams and unable to do anything, we stood crowded together, trying our best not to give up. What the hell can you do in such a situation? You talk to the person next to you. The person you think that you are going to die next to when the fire comes, or the air runs out.

We formed teams, bonds that saved our lives from the panic that could have been a catastrophe as bad as the explosions.

We have wanted to find each other since, in so many cases. Over 750 people were on that crowded train, and many were heroes, many were friends and comrades, who have never been seen or heard of since. And it can be lonely, to bear all this alone.

On each train and on the bus it was different, but terrible. For all of us it was unforgettable, in ways that still reverberate through us now.

Some Kings Cross people found each other through the internet. Now we want to reach out to our fellow passengers. We would like people to know that we are here, if they want to find us.

We are the first, and currently the only group of survivors from the bombsite who meet up. But we are not alone in feeling as we do.

Tomorrow several of us are going to go to the Survivor meeting where for the first time other survivors will gather from all 4 bomb sites. The Red Cross are hosting the event, in the hope that more people can form groups and meet up to help each other after the bombs. Kings Cross United will be there, and so will other survivors.

If you were caught up in the events of 7th July you can call the Red Cross on 0845 054 7444 and talk to someone. You can meet others on Saturday and you can get help by calling the number.

Or email we will do our best to put you in contact with people who were there, even if you weren't on our train. We're not counsellors, or experts, or anybody special really. We are just people who were going to work on the Piccadilly line on a Thursday morning in July. But we are there if you need us, and if you were there too, you are welcome.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Panic attack

Yesterday I had a panic attack on the tube. It was too crowded, and then a young man with a rucksack pushed on right next to me, and something about it felt terribly wrong and my heart started thundering and I felt sick. So I got off, and got out of the station, and tried to calm down and stop retching. Eventually I got a taxi, and I arrived at work late.

Work was really, really busy, and I felt on edge and tearful all day. I wanted to have a cry. It was really hard to concentrate; there was this sense of foreboding, and the busy cheerful office felt slightly unreal. But there wasn't time to think, to consider why the violent panic response had flattened me earlier. There was too much to do.

My instincts had said 'Danger! DANGER! Get off the tube NOW!' I trust my instincts, so I did. But the train didn't blow up, so my instincts were wrong.

He was just a sweaty, nervous young man with a large bulky ruck sack, and he was young, and he was black. Like the man who pushed himself onto my train and blew himself up. I know: but there you go, that was my reaction. It sickens me. I literally made myself sick.

So now I don't know what to do: my reaction was completely innappropriate wasn't it? And that is what upsets me. I don't want to be a hostage to misplaced panic reactions. I don't want to be afraid going to work. I don't want to be scared of young men with rucksacks. I want to trust my instincts, but they didn't tell me anything was going to happen when we pulled out of Kings Cross on 7th July and yesterday they got it completely wrong.

I am sick and tired of being sick and scared. Everytime I think it's getting better, and I'm doing well, it creeps in again.

J was shakey when he woke up. He had dreamed that I was killed by a bomb.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Pole position

Tonight we had pole graduation class. This means dress up and perform your routine and all your tricks for each other.

My friend Nicola and I have been teaching women to pole dance for almost 2 years: it's a fitness dance class - strictly no men allowed. You learn how to hold your bodyweight on one arm and how to twirl and kick and swing. It's very hard work. We train up for it by doing press-ups and crunches. I don't get paid, I do it instead of going to a gym and paying a gym subscription. Tonight was a bunch of women who have been dancing on and off for over a year and have not been able to stop.We just love it.

I love to see women shriek and howl and clap their approval as one of us throws herself upsidedown in a pair of 6 inch perspex shoes. Everyone dressed up: we had fans blowing our hair, the White Stripes blaring, it was wild. Wild and lovely.

This is the first time I've posted about pole dancing. I will write more on it later: writing and dancing and loving my life have been important things for me this year. I was thinking about the things I'd miss if it all stoppped; hanging upsidedown by my heels whilst a bunch of my girls shrieked approval is damn well one of them.

Yeah, pics definitely to follow.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Scaring ourselves sick?

Are we frightening ourselves sick? Or is our emotional constipation causing us untold psychic harm?

The Bombs Made Enough Victims, Let's Not Make More argues Professor Simon Wessely, a psychiatrist, in Surprisingly, he says immediate trauma intervention can make things worse. He recommends talking to support networks of families and friends and so on, at first, rather than a stranger. If, after some months, PTSD symptoms show, then more specialist help can be arranged. But there is no point assuming lashings of counselling will cure everything, and we run the risk of making ourselves victims - people are tougher than we think. By knowing all potential trauma symptoms we run the risk of developing them, he says.

There's a bit I remember, in Three Men in a Boat, by Jerome K. Jerome, when he recalls going through a medical dictionary, and becoming convinced that he has every single ailment listed, in either the acute or chronic form. Apart from Housemaid's Knee. He gloomily contacts his doctor to see how long he can expect to live, and to declare that he is an invaluable medical student's resource - all diseases manifested in one man.

The doctor prescribes him a remedy and the narrator rushes to a pharmacy to hand over the doctor's prescription. The pharmacist hands the paper back, unable to help. The doctors prescription is to '

'Take 1 x 10 mile walk, daily, 1 x steak and 1 x pint of red wine and stop filling your head with things you don't understand'.

Why do I feel so self-indulgent when I think about having couselling? I am very wary of it. I know that talking to other survivors has been immensely helpful, and I have always felt very buoyed up by the love of my family and friends. Shouldn't that be enough, that, and time passing, for me to get back to normal?

I don't know, should it? Do I want sympathy I pay for by the hour? Does counselling help?

I think it adds something different to talking to family and friends. It is hard to tell people you love and who love you about terrible things. Knowing the things that hurt you will hurt them. A stranger's compassion, and pragmatism - mostly, his or her naming and thus normalising what ails - can be very reassuring. And there are limits to how often survivors feel comfortable talking again and again and again about the experience still reverberating through them. Whereas a private space where you can say what you like, repeat yourself and walk away without having to worry about the other person worrying about you - yes, that is a relief.

The editor of spiked, Mick Hume goes further in an attack on the counselling 'industry' when he says

London not only survived last week's terrorist bombs, as it inevitably would, but came through the grim experience with an uplifting sense of human solidarity. Since then, however, we have had to endure a different sort of barrage from all manner of professional ghouls and vultures, trying to feed off the tragedy. Their message is that the terror attack was far worse than we imagined, and that we are all victims - weaker and more vulnerable and afraid than we looked last week. They are in danger of turning what was a triumph of the human spirit into another victory for the Culture of Fear.

Hmmm. Yes, there was a real sense of solidarity when it kicked off. But I also got a bit sick with all the 'stoical Londoners' Blitz-spirit' malarkey - that was a media caricature.

Yes, people just got on with it, and weren't hysterical, and the emergency services & London transport were great. But everyone was brave because they had to be, it was their job, or they needed to go to work, and what else could we all do?

Being brave means admitting your fear and doing it anyway.

I think it is right that the public should know about the suffering that is still going on 3 months after the bomb. There is a real pressure to be seen to be 'getting on with it and getting over it'

But this is the first time we have really heard much in the news from the injured and survivors, making their way out of hospital, emerging into the debate about compensation.

And the news will move on soon enough; meanwhile there is a very real sense of shock and violation and fear after London's biggest peacetime attack, amongst not only the immediate victims, but people who know them, people who use the tube and bus system.

Determinedly shouting 'we are not afraid!' comes over to me as shrill, and actually makes it sound as if we are afraid. We protest too much.

I think it is more honest to have this 3 months-later period of reflection on what has happened to those still alive after the bombs went off. To acknowledge that, yes, it was bloody and scary and yes, it caused over a thousand people very real suffering. Even if you didn't actually see them die as their building was annhilated by a hi-jacked aircraft on live TV) - But carrying on living together, grieving, angry but dealing with it without flying off the handle seems more dignified than all those unrealistically hollow declarations of stoicism and bulldoggery.

Mick Hume is I think, pretty right when he says that most people - people who weren't directly involved - aren't that traumatised by the bombings, so let's stop going on as if they are, because that is making a feaful, terrorised culture - rather what terrorists are hoping for. But telling the stories of those who were there isn't a Bad Thing, or ghoulish or vultureish. What comes through from the stories is mostly, hopeful.

Surely it is cheering for people to know that if something dreadful does happen, people in general are calm and kind and brave.

One person got on my train with a bomb. Dozens of people tried to help each other stay calm. Hundreds of other people rushed to help. Thousands more wanted to help, sent money, prayed, stood in silence, wrote of their sympathy and outrage. Millions watched the news and only a tiny number of people rejoiced; everyone else was shocked and sad.

Let's do the maths. It's basically positive. Let's try and hold onto that.

I agree with Mick Hume's final call to action

'...time to move on, ignore the doomsayers and the Culture of Fear vultures, and start a proper debate about life in Britain after the London bombs - about how we can turn that inner resilience into a force for a better and stronger society, and what it is that we want to stand and fight for, beyond opposing a handful of bombers. Such a debate would be a first step towards consolidating the sense that we are in this together - and not only when somebody is trying to blow us up.'

We need to be more honest. Instead of pretending that we're not at all afraid, or conversely, pretending we are very injured and will never ever heal, we could do instead with acknowledging what we have and what we cherish about ourselves and the way we live. And being proud of ourselves for getting on with it, and staying hopeful, staying calm.

I don't think the answer for the future rests in gazing introspectively inwards and keening our 'authentic' pain. Nor does it consist of puffing out our chests and sticking out our jaw and glowering at the perceived 'enemy'. The 'enemy' were nihilistic young British men. They played cricket, taught children, liked music, spoke with Leeds accents. There was little that was 'foreign' or 'other' about them, little on the surface to mistrust. Climbing onto public transport they looked like you or me: ordinary.

The tragedy is that somewhere, between us and them there was this terrible chasm where by their anger could only find its logical expression by blowing themselves and us up. And we didn't know how much they hated us. We had no idea. They, and we did not engage with each other enough to discover the scale of this apocalyptic, incoherent death-fetishising impotent rage.

Hope and healing lies in us communicating what we think and discussing we want and in listening to each other, finding common ground. Not scaring ourselves into a frenzy of hardlinering or victimhood. We're better than that.
Therapy can help some of us, some of the time.

But the only way to defeat the sickness of alienation and rage and fear is to open up to each other, and look for the similarities, the comradeship, the hope in other people.

Like I said, if you do the maths, it still looks as if it's going to be all right in the end. For every idiot with a bomb I give you a hundred rushing to do whatever they can to help the victims of a bombing.
Here. In Iraq. In Bali. Everywhere.

The Sunday Times article

Here's the article in the Sunday Times,

It is part of a bigger feature on life after the bombs.

They haven't cut it much at all. It is good to see my words in print for the first time - my first published feature in a newspaper.

Blogs ''rubbish''. But then again...

Blogs are rubbish, apparently. I loved this.

Blogger: Term used to describe anyone with enough time or narcissism to document every tedious bit of minutia filling their uneventful lives. Possibly the most annoying thing about bloggers is the sense of self-importance they get after even the most modest of publicity. Sometimes it takes as little as a referral on a more popular blogger's website to set the lesser blogger's ego into orbit.

Then God forbid a blogger gets mentioned on CNN. If you thought it was impossible for a certain blogger to get more pious than he was, wait until you see the shit storm of self-righteous save-the-world bullshit after a network plug. Suddenly the boring, mild-mannered blogger you once knew will turn into Mother Theresa, and will single handedly take it upon himself to end world hunger with his stupid links to band websites and other smug blogger dipshits.

But, then again, citizen journalism is offically cool! Or are we citizen paparazzi? It throws up interesting issues, after the London bombs, as victims become reporters and reporters become victims.

Should we be paid, the public ask the BBC? Writing for the BBC for one week, as I did after the bombs, was a privilege, and a life-changing event and I didn't need to be paid. I told the BBC how writing for them had meant other Kings Cross train survivors had been able to find each other, which everyone was very pleased about, including Pete Clifton the BBC news website editor.

Oh, it's all too confusing. There are some dann good blogs out there though. Recently, I have been enjoying Belle In the Big Apple and Mimi in in New York. Mimi knows how to run a sticky blog.

Well, blog on for wit and wisdom, I say. And remember, blog-haters, no-one's forcing you to read it. But for those of you who are, let me know if I turn into Mother Teresa, won't you?

Unedited 1st draft of Sunday Times feature


This is the story of how the ordinary became extraordinary. Of how the 8.50am commute to work became a choking nightmare of oily, blood-filled smoke and an endless scream. Of how the voices of strangers reached out to each other in the terrifying darkness and tried to help each other. The small things that become the whole world, when the world explodes.

My name is Rachel, and I could be anyone you know. The woman whose face you recognise but don't know the name of in the office. You might see me hurrying to work, slightly late, pounding the pavement with my bag slung over my shoulder and my jaw tense. You might stand next to me on the Piccadilly line and wonder why I'm closing my eyes as we pass through Kings Cross. You might queue behind me in a coffee shop and wonder why I start so violently as a siren suddenly blares outside.

Like over a thousand other people, I was directly caught up in the events of 7th July. The bomb carried by a young man in his rucksack exploded about 7-10 feet behind me on my tube carriage, whilst I was reading the news about the successful Olympic bid. Because the train was so crowded, I didn't die. I fell sideways towards the front set of double doors on the first carriage of the Piccadilly line tube as dozens of other commuters on my carriage took the full force of the explosion, in one of the deepest, narrowest parts of the London Underground tube network. My first thought was that I was dead, then that I had been blinded. My ears were still ringing from the blast that was like being boxed violently in the ears as I fell on top of a young woman who had been standing crushed close next to me. In the utter darkness, our hands caught and held on to each other. Tiny shards of glass fell on us and acrid smoke that tasted indescribable caught in my throat as I tried to speak.

Feet away, another woman began to scream and scream.

I checked my body, to see if I was still all there. I was. People began to speak, to groan. The first words I heard, and I don't know if it was my voice speaking them or a stranger's, were 'Are you all right?'

Inside the bombed train, something extraordinary had begun to happen. Though sight was all but impossible, breathing difficult, we normally silent strangers on the train began to comfort and help each other where we could. We became a team.

'Stand up if you aren't injured, hold hands, stay calm. We're going to be all right. We're going to be all right. Hold on. Hold on.'

In comforting each other, we were saving ourselves. From the panic that would have been catastrophic.

Long, long moments passed, and there was the agonised screaming, and the voices calling to each other in the darkness. The panic and the strange calm, the living and the dying, all together in the dark.

We began to use the lights from our mobile phones and we strained to hear as the brave white-faced driver forced his way out of his carriage and beckoned us down the steps into the dim tunnel, warning us to not step on the tracks which could be live. Nobody panicked, nobody pushed, though the urge to escape was overwhelming. The learned, civilised behaviour of commuters who must live in too-close proximity took over, and we queued to leave the train. Once in the tunnel, those of us who could walk, did so, in careful single file for fear of electrocution. Behind me, a man half dragged, half-carried another badly injured man, across his shoulders. The passengers of the Kings Cross train had united and were doing their best to make sure as many of us as possible got out alive.

We talked to each other, we encouraged each other, we even tried to make jokes. We struggled to the ticket hall, and strangers' hands reached down to us and lifted us from the tracks. We reached the blessed cool air of Russell Square ticket hall and people passed us water. Our faces were blackened, our eyes staring with shock. If you touched us, you could feel the explosion still shuddering through the tensed adrenalised body. We still didn't know what had happened then. And how everything had changed, for us struggling into the station; for those badly injured still left behind in the train, for the families of those people we had to leave behind in the darkness as we walked into the light.

You've probably read this story, or ones like it, before. You've probably wondered what it would be like to live through that. It's exactly twelve weeks since the bombings and I would like to tell you a little bit about life now.

Once I had thrown myself into the arms of my partner, once safely home, the first thing I did, before I even washed the soot from my body, was to sit and write down what had happened. I needed to tell my story to other Londoners, and so I wrote an account on, a London website, where Londoners were posting news on an internet message board. The response was immediate: people's compassion and concern obvious. It is so painful to tell those you love what you have been through. You want to protect them from the horrifying pain of it all. Putting my story out there to strangers calmed me down. The next day I logged on again to answer the many messages I had been sent, and wrote a progress report. And then another, and another.

I didn't know it, but this writing my story down was saving me. The updates became a daily diary of the strange days of that week in July. I coughed up the smoke and the stitches healed and the daily account of the small steps towards normality was read by hundreds of other Londoners who could have been there. And by some who were.

On Monday, Mark, a man who had been on my carriage read the account got in touch. It was amazing and wonderful to hear from someone else who had been there. He and his wife met my partner and me and we talked and we talked. The sharing of the common experience was like taking a stone from my chest. And he told me the most hopeful thing - he had already got back on a train!

On the Tuesday after the Thursday bomb, I got on a tube train too. I was shaking with fear and nausea. My partner held me, but despite the deep comfort I drew from his presence, I still struggled to cope. Sitting opposite me was a man in a suit and dark tie, looking pale and set-faced. Seeing my distress, he leaned forward, breaking the unwritten Don't Talk rule of the London commuter. He told me his name. And that he, too, had been on my train. We exchanged numbers, shook hands, and from these two meetings, Kings Cross United - the small group of survivors from that train - came about.

Meanwhile, a journalist from the BBC had noticed my blog (online diary), and asked if it could move for a week to the BBC news website, and so reach a larger audience.

I work in an ordinary office, with people who have been wonderfully kind. I'm not a professional writer, but I agreed, as long as I could keep my anonymity. After all, the point of the diary wasn't me, Rachel, especially, but the fact that it could have been anybody. The diary though seemed to be taking on a life of its own; as I wrote it, I felt a burden lifting from me, as the story was shared it became everyone's story, and my voice just one of the voices from the darkness of the Underground train.

I badly wanted more people from my train to find each other; I felt an overwhelming connection to those strangers, those fellow-travellers, those people whose story was now tangled with my story. The voices, those hands held in the dark, when we tried to save each other's lives, and in doing so, saved our own.

And it happened as I hoped. People from the train began to get in touch - largely through the internet, leaving messages on the London website where I first posted the account, or commenting on my blog. A week after the bombs, I went to Trafalgar Square, to observe the silence and keep the Vigil and at my side were people from the train.

Now there are 20 of us who are Kings Cross United, the growing group that is for those who survived the bomb on the Piccadilly line train. We have been to the pub and we keep in email contact. We help each other and in doing so, help ourselves. It is from talking to other survivors that I have learned how so much of my own experience is mirrored in theirs. How ten weeks or so in, many of us seemed to have a collective 'wobble'. How sleeping peacefully became suddenly difficult, how anger and nausea and panic attacks began to strike without warning. We learned how once the shock of the violence fades, the exultation and guilt of survival ebb away, then the hard slow slog of dealing with the small things begins. The burst eardrums are healing, the stitches taken out. Now it is facing the fear, the vertigo of a world that looks the same but is not as it was. The everyday acts of daily life that suddenly cost much more in bravery and determination that we'd ever imagined. Getting back on a rush hour tube. Getting to work on time. Swallowing down the sickening fear and just doing it, because what choice do you have? How much do you want your life back? Isn't it worth these small acts of defiance to take back what we are owed - the ordinary, everyday life of work, family, friends, in this busy, crowded city? Yes, and again yes. We can do it. We are not, after all, alone.

We look the same to you, but inside we are different. Everything shook, exploded and then knitted together differently after the bomb. What looks like cracks and scars are where things have joined up again, stronger than they were before. I wear the unseen tattoo mark of July 7th with pride. Sometimes it aches, but it is part of me and who I am now.

My experiences in the aftermath of the bomb are the experiences of many, and there is a strange comfort in that. Now when I travel, I look at the people around me, the strangers on my tube train. I wonder whether the face opposite me would be the face that looks into my eyes and takes my hand if the unimaginable happened. Of whether the stranger on the train would be the guide in the panic and the voice in the dark. And so I breathe in and out, and I manage the fear. I know, because I experienced it, that I am safe as long as I am still breathing, because these are not strangers. These are my fellow passengers.

He meant to cause terror, that man who pushed onto my carriage and blew himself up. And you would think, wouldn't you, that a hundred feet down in the darkness, when the world exploded, I would have felt utterly alone. But no. The worst of all things happened and we became Kings Cross United. I salute you, my fellow passengers. You have made me forever proud.