Sunday, October 23, 2005

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.


Blogger Beth said...

Time to start living your life again!

So many of us will never achieve in our entire lives what you have in a few short months. I hope you feel as proud of yourself as I'm sure your friends, family and all of us out in blogland do.

Well done you...


October 23, 2005 11:20 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow Rachel,
It sounds like you've managed to come to terms and find some peace with just about everything that life has dished out, and helped other people to help themselves as well. How proud and pleased with yourself should you feel right now?

If you don't well, I feel pleased and very proud on your behalf.

On top of all that, there are people, like me, who read your blogg and learn something about ourselves, other people, how to care for each other and how important it is to care for each other.

At the risk of reopening old wounds, I want to ask "Did the bombers win?" With all you've achieved and all the we have learnt? No chance.

Hoo-bloody-ray you said - I want to say "bloody well done".

All the best,


October 24, 2005 9:28 am  

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