Thursday, December 29, 2005

6 months on

We're approaching the sixth month anniversary of the 7th of July.
The media interest is beginning to pick up again. I wonder when this story will ever go away?
Unlike a private tragedy, it is hard to get away from the constant reminders of that summer day. In some ways this makes things easier: everyone knows what happened, everyone is sorry for you. You don't have to explain all the time. I wonder how hard it must be for other people who have suffered more, but less visible bereavements, traumas, horrors, to see how we get so much attention, so much sympathy. There is no hierarchy of pain, media interest does not make the event or our experience more or less valid, but brings with it its own set of problems.

The survivors and bereaved families of the Tsunami have been in the news, and the cameras have turned up to photograph their grief. I know a little of how they must feel, to be filmed and interviewed during your grieving, surely one of the most intimate, private, painful moments of your life is savage. And as a backdrop to their grief, the devastation of thousands of villages, hundreds of thousands of lives. Quarter of a million unknown, unphotographed families, businesses, lives changed irrevocably by a catastrophe that no human agency can be blamed for.

Last night I watched a programme about faith after 7th July. A tragedy caused by human actions, a mass murder, a multiple maiming, and act of hatred carried out in the name of 'God'. Or of 'holy war'. Or 'revenge'. The alleged lead bomber Mohamed Sidique Khan even called us all complicit in our own destruction,

'Your democratically elected governments continuously perpetuate atrocities against my people all over the world.

And your support of them makes you directly responsible, just as I am directly responsible for protecting and avenging my Muslim brothers and sisters.

Until we feel security, you will be our targets. And until you stop the bombing, gassing, imprisonment and torture of my people we will not stop this fight.
We are at war and I am a soldier. Now you too will taste the reality of this situation'

How do you reconcile a belief in God with what was done in God's name? How can anyone bomb or kill anyone in the name of God? Here, or anywhere else?

Does it help to blame someone for what happened? Underground, on July 7th, or on the beaches and fishing villages of Asia a year ago? Probably, but there is no use blaming God for waves. And warfare, bombing, maiming is not carried out by God, but by humans. If there is a God, then I don't believe he orchestrates bombings, nor does he intervene to miraculously pull people out of the wreckage. If he is anywhere, then he is there in the carriage, in the smoke and screaming. He is there on the bloodied platform with the dying and injured. He is there on the beaches, in the rubble. He is in the hands of the rescuers, digging for bodies after the earthquake, in the arms of the ambulance workers tending to the injured, in the tears of the bereaved, in the shocked witness of thousands, in the mass of struggling humanity. In the kindness of strangers, the compassion of humans for each other. If God exists at all, that is where he is.

He is not in the hearts of men with bombs, whatever they think, however they seek to justify it to themselves.

I turn Mr Khan's words back against him and I make them my own:

'Our support of each other makes us directly responsible for each other, just as I am directly responsible for protecting my brothers and sisters, so I am responsible for protecting and supporting my fellow passengers - and they are responsible for protecting and supporting me. We travel together, we are all of humanity on a journey together. We are all targets, we are all each others' security; I am my brother's keeper, not a soldier, nor an avenger. This is not a war you can win, for together we are a multitude. There is no government, no war, no religion stronger than this: this is compassion in action, this is the highest security of all; this is life-long freedom. For wherever I walk, however I travel, however many bombs you throw at me, I walk safely, because I am protected by my fellow passengers. I am loved, and we are not divided. '

There has been so much media interest in us who were bombed - but we are just ordinary people. The attack on us was an attack on all ordinary people. On common humanity. And what we do afterwards, how we behave is not extraordinary, even though the media think it is sometimes. We were bombed, and we tried to keep each other calm in the smokey darkness and the screaming; we tried to help each other, we did what we could to behave like civilised people. After that shattering experience we still help each other. That help we gave each other on the train still continues, as we men and women who call ourselves Kings Cross United - motley band of survivors, all ages, all backgrounds, from all carriages of the train - email each other, offer support, help to get each other back to normal. We do what humans do.

Life goes on, and we go on with it. He meant to cause fear and devastatation, that young man, when he got on the train with the bomb. And here we all are, fellow passengers, who now recognise each other as friends on our continuing journey. We are complicit in our own recovery, not our own destruction. We are Kings Cross United. And so are you, and so is everybody else.


Blogger Cheryl said...

I'd love, under the circumstances, to have another word for this, but:


December 29, 2005 6:36 pm  
Blogger Jag said...

Excellent Rachel.

December 30, 2005 2:38 pm  
Blogger Numeral said...


What led you to change the 0855 time you originally gave to 0850 in the Observer?

January 02, 2006 2:43 am  

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