Sunday, October 09, 2005

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.


Blogger Beth said...

Again, another really touching post.

I think I've said this before, but I feel a really strange sense of pride that you're doing all this and got really choked up at your frustration.

You're doing such an amazing thing and you're definitely taking something positive from all of this - I think thats what makes me proud. So few people are able to take the bull by the horns and say "Sod them...I'm not just going to give in to this."

You're doing remarkable things and as hard as it all is, you should feel really good about yourself.


P.S. - Enjoy your shopping, just got back from a little jaunt myself.

October 09, 2005 4:11 pm  
Blogger @nashvag said...

Keep your chin up. Nice list of positives at the end.

"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)"

Isn’t that the truth!

"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."

Interesting reaction, but I’m not sure what it means - that things are getting back to normal? Or that they aren’t?

October 10, 2005 8:08 pm  
Blogger Rachel said...

Not sure if things are getting back to normal.

Here's an interesting link about it...

Actually, think this deserves a whole post to itself

October 11, 2005 1:48 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful post, thank you. Strange question to be asking, but I think it's the only chance I may have of finding this man, I think he was on the second carriage he was a well turned out man, in a suit, he was standing in a crowd. When the bomb exploded, he was the only one left standing, covered head to toe in blood. I know this is a long shot- if you do know of him, please can you let me know- this could be a key of helping out a colleagues niece, who gets horrible flashback- apologies to rachel if this isnt right to be here.

October 13, 2005 12:48 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shopping solves everything, am I right? (everyone nod)

October 30, 2005 2:57 pm  

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