Friday, June 30, 2006

Kings Cross United drinks

We had a really good Kings Cross United pub session last night; it was great to see so many familar faces and some new ones - including two lovely girls who were right next to me at the first set of doors. In fact, there were loads of people from carriage one last night, so we had a proper carriage one catch up ( carriage one was the one with the bomb). Another few pieces of the jigsaw slot into place. Usually carriage three has the most people coming to KCU drinks, for some reason, there are more from carriage three than any other carriage. But there are passengers from all of the train. We're 110 people now! Amazing. And still they come.

We all felt proud of how we had helped each other, and will continue to do so. We'll all be together again for the anniversary. I won't put our exact plans down as we want to be private on the day. But we have some plans in place, and they will mostly involve doing what we have always done, being together, buying each other drinks, helping each other through the hard bits as well as looking to the future, finding strength in being united.

The barman asked what we were celebrating. ''Just being here'', we said. And we laughed and laughed.

As usual, we were the last to leave the pub.

Quite a few of us have been doing interviews and everyone has managed okay, with help from the wondrous Ann Marie, our volunteer press officer. I am glad that people feel strong enough to tell their stories, so many voices from can be heard from the darkness of the underground, one year on.

My boss has been a star. He took me out for a drink, and pointed out I looked like I was about to collapse. I have been now signed off work, as of this afternoon, and put on compassionate leave for next week. So I can sit in my sunny back garden, read books instead of newspapers, do yoga, stroke fat Miff the cat, water my lavender bushes, do my admin, get my hair cut, go to the dentist, clean out the aquarium, all the stuff there hasn't been time for, and generally take a breather, because the last few months have been relentless. J and I have managed to book a holiday and think about planning our wedding. We fly to Turkey on July 28th.

I will keep writing, perhaps I will finally get the confidence to write about more than terrorism and bloody bombs. The bomb shocked me into writing, now if I can write without bombs running through everything I do as a leitmotif in a minor key, I will be happy. I've tried a little, in the past. I want to keep trying, learn more, get better.

The magnificent Fergal Keane, who got me into this writing lark in the first place when I met him a week after the 7th July, after blogging for the BBC for a week, and who told me I was a writer and I must write every day, emailed to check how I was and to see if I am still writing and to offer practical help. I am very grateful to him for changing my life over a mineral water in a hotel, and so giving me the best present to any new writer: the blessing and encouragement of a proper published author. There have been so many lights ahead shining the way ahead, this last year. That is one of the things I have learned this last year, how much help and support there can be, from the most unexpected places.

I have written a small follow up to the BBC diary of last summer, that will be on the BBC site next week, and a few other pieces. The piece I really wanted to write, a comment piece, I couldn't. The last manic month had scraped any passion and sensible argument out of me, and what I wrote didn't sing. But the editor said never mind, try again later when you have had some rest and can think straight. And recommended a good novel to relax with. He is a lovely man. More support. I am lucky indeed.

I have one project on the go to finish before the end of next week, a couple of small pieces, and I think I have done my last interview. Only one interview has been crap. No, I do not ''feel cursed''. No I do not '' hate Muslims''. No, I am not ''pleased to be in the news''. Do me a favour. Grrrr. I should have walked out. I am too easy to push around sometimes.

It is almost the weekend. Hurray! Come on England, come on sunshine, come on a quiet life. Nearly there.

One bum note: my phone was stolen last night. I feel lost without it. All my numbers, all my contacts are on it. Plus a rare video of Miff having a bath. But maybe that too, is a blessing in disguise. It means that people will not be able to contact me for a few days, which will help with the resting up. And my friends know where I am, and how to get in touch. (Email is fine, or call J.)

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

What Holly Said...

Journalists please read

Kings Cross United information

London Assembly 7 July Review Committee - which includes survivor testimony in transcript and webcast form. You can contact the London Assembly and ask for Janet Hughes, Senior Scrutiny officer who can send you a copy of the DVD with survivors talking on it. About the experience of being blown up, about communication and aftercare. It is a great resource for the media.

7 July Assistance Centre, the official support for those affected by 7/7.

Ok. I need your help here. I am not a 7/7 press officer; I am a woman who has a job in an advertising office whose train exploded a year ago and who became part of a private group of survivors and who, like millions of other bloggers, has been writing a personal web diary for a year.

Some survivors , including some from the train I was on, have agreed to do some limited media as we approach the anniversary, which is a difficult time. Media requests have been coming in all year, and since March, have intensified so that there are now hundreds of journalists from all over the world wanting to speak to survivors, and most of them seem to be trying to do so via me. I am sorry, but I can't help.

I am not going to give out names or details of survivors, I never have, and I never will. Offering me money will not work either; I don't want it, I won't accept it. I am not able to do any more media myself, and if you want to talk to 7/7 survivors in general you will need to go to annmarie AT who has kindly offered to help out, for free, with dealing with the media fire-storm which I can no longer cope with. She has a list of 7/7 people who have said they will speak out. Most of them have already been booked now.

I realise that you are trying to do your jobs. But please be reasonable. I am also trying to do mine. And my job, which pays my mortgage, is nothing to do with 7 July, and I can't do it if everyone keeps trying to call and email me and ask me questions which I cannot answer, and ask for help which I cannot give.

Thank you.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Seeing isn't believing

Today's G2...
''A year on from 7/7, wild rumours are circulating about who planted the bombs and why. Some people even claim this picture of the four bombers was faked. Mark Honigsbaum, who accidentally triggered at least one of the conspiracy theories, investigates...'', and finds that

''...In the internet age, it seems, some canards never die.''


Monday, June 26, 2006

Times: New bombing claims fuel calls for a public inquiry

Big story here.

Petition signed by survivors, bereaved and members of the public here. ( Click)

My thanks to the Times, and to everyone who signs the petition, and to all those who support our calls to learn lessons from this atrocity. It's not about blame, not about political games - but simply about trying to spare suffering, and save lives in future.

Danny's Story

Danny Biddle, the survivor most seriously injured in the London blasts tells of his agonising battle for life - and the shocking Home Office response when he asked for help to rebuild his future in the Mail on Sunday yesterday.

In a 3 -page interview in yesterday's Mail on Sunday, he damns the Criminal Injuries compensation scheme - he recieved £118, 332 - 'and that's my lot. It's quite a callous way they explain it. You can only claim for three injuries - even if you've got 200. It's like going through an Argos catalogue. picking the most expensive things. But it's not a catalogue, it's my body, and we're talking about parts that 12 months ago were attached to me. The most expensive claimI could make was for losing my legs - that was £110,000. Then you go to the next most expensive injury.CICA says the loss of an eye is worth £27,000 - but then they take 70% off because it's only your second worst injury, so I recieved £8000 for my eye. Next was my spleen for which they gave me £332.'

'There was no letter - just a cheque on the post for £118,0000. I'm still waiting for the money for my spleen, but for some reason that hasn't arrived'.

Danny showed me his injuries when I visited him a few weeks ago. He wanted to come to the meeting about a public inquiry, but he couldn't, he was still in hospital, so I went over to see him instead. We talked til late. As well losing both legs above the knee, and his eye, he has lost his hearing on one side, has enormous scars across his chest from where medics performed open heart massage to save him during one of his cardiac arrests, has burns, internal injuries, damaged lungs and numerous other scars and wounds, including where small change in his pocket was blasted into his thigh bone.

He has to take penicillin every day, and then further drugs to counter the effects of the drugs he has to take. Not having a spleen compromises his immune system, and he has had to deal with multiple infections since the blast. I wanted to take Danny a flowering plant to cheer up his small hospital room, where he has spent many long, boring, painful hours, as he recovers from the massive physical struggle of learning to walk again on new prosthetic legs, but he is not allowed plants, because of the risk of infection. He told me that walking on prosthetics on below the knee amputations takes 200% more physical effort than walking; above the knee, 800% more effort.

He looked tired; he still has difficulty sleeping. His dreams, like so many other survivors from 7th July, are haunted by the screams from the train, and in his case, by the face of Khan, who calmly detonated a bomb 18 inches away from Danny.

Danny's suffering is almost incomprehensible. A former 6'4 body builder and building site projects manager, he played semi-professional football for years and was a healthy, popular member of a group of sporty friends. He cannot bear to watch the football he loved so much now. He has lost several inches in height. He hopes to buy himself a better wheelchair soon. £118,000 is not very much for a 27 year old man to live on for the next sixty years. He told me of his battles with bureaucracy, the £300 vouchers issued late to repaint the bungalow the local authority finally, reluctantly provided. Then they refused to get a workman in to paint the walls, argung that Danny's dad in his sixties was fit enough to do it. They insisted that Danny come to their office from hospital to collect the keys for his new home. When he eventually visited the place, months later, the doors were too narrow to fit his wheelchair through. He showed the local authority representative his bleeding knuckles, scraped as he struggled through in the chair. They didn't want to widen the doors. They pointed out that he had, after all, managed to fit the chair through the door. They gave in, in the end.

It's the brutalising pettiness of the bureacracy, the bloody mindlessness of the official machine, the lack of human compasion and empathy that infuritated me when I visited Danny. His dignity and presence filled the small hospital room. He is a big man, and his strength, his huge powerful body saved him from the blast that should have killed him outright. But he should not have to use his massive strength to fight this battle for compensation and help, help he never wanted to have to ask for. To see this warrior in hospital still, is like seeing a lion in a cage.

Danny is angry at the Government and calls the Intelligence and Securities committee report ''a whitewash''. He is calling for a public inquiry into the attacks.
'They could be found to be at fault, and this could increase demands for higher compensation', he told the Mail on Sunday. But is that any reason not to have one? Is being afraid of criticism, or of having to pay more compensation to Danny and other seriously injured and bereaved families reason enough to refuse a public interrogation of the facts behind 7th July and after?

I wanted to write about Danny when I first met him, but I know that the papers must have their exclusives, and I think he is very brave for telling his story. I hope that when millions of people read his story, they will be angry and want to help. Danny has been treated for his terrible injuries by dozens of dedicated medical staff, and they deserve the highest praise for keeping him amongst us still, as do the passenger and tube driver who saved his life by stemming his blood loss at the scene. But now he must look to the future, his impending marriage. It's a different future to the one he anticipated a year ago. And so I ask everyone who reads this, please think about the story of Danny; think about how it could be you, someone you love, who simply took a train to work on a summer's morning, and whose life was blown apart by a man with a bomb, Mohammed Sidique Khan who said '' This is a war and I am a soldier''. What sort of 'war', what sort of 'soldiering' is this? All over the world, lives are shattered by bombs, by war. In whose name, in what cause are these bombs detonated? I see no God in this suffering, I see nothing justified or righteous.

I see no politician has even written to Danny to explain, or come to his side. I wonder if they will now as the anniversary approaches, and the story is in the papers.

The campaign for a proper inquiry is here, signed by Danny and other survivors and bereaved families and members of the public.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Paint on my face: half time

Marky, Maria ( who is Ukranian, but married to Marky) , Jane, J and me are watching the England - Ecuador match; as usual it is painful. I am wearing a red top and a white skirt and red shoes, with a St. George cross painted in lipstick on my face. Even my undies are patriotic.

I do not know why everyone claims on TV that ''there is a half time surge in electricity as the nation puts the kettle on''. Bollocks, nobody drinks tea during an England match; the nation opens the fridges to drink more Stella and Heineken. And there's no exception round here.

In desperation, faced with England's hoofing long-ball timewasting, I have put up the Guardian's free A3 poster of some fish. Fish are lucky. Since we put up the last Guardian poster of fish in the office, we have beaten our whole of last year's revenue target by the end of Q2. Come on, England. They are 'saving themselves', says the BBC commentator. What for? What is more important than this, playing for Queen and country, in the World Cup, if you are a professional England footballer?

Give me £100, 000 a week and I will play my heart out, even if it is a bit hot and sweaty. The crowd are singing, but there is a note of desperation to the songs. We usually play worse in the second half. Heart and soul and balls, England, what the bloody hell are you waiting for?

UPDATE: Thank God, we won. Well done, thank God for the fish and the lucky pendant and pants. I am exhausted and hoarse. Lennon was put on too late, Lampard a waste of salary, Beckham was deadly, and whoever said he should get off ( i.e: J) should apologise. Now. And Rooney went 93 minutes, so there is some hope, still.

Sort of. Maybe. Come on, England.

Khan 'was bugged by Special Branch' pre-7/7

''The official line on 7/7 is that it came out of the blue. But the security services were tipped off about the bombers’ Beeston hang-out long before the attacks...In the days after the London bombings of last July the government declared that the attacks had come without warning... Security sources briefed the media that the four suicide attackers were “clean skins” ... There had been no suspicions, the authorities said, no firm leads that might have prevented the carnage of 7/7...'The committee’s conclusion is that there was not an intelligence failure.'
This weekend the evidence of prior suspicions, warnings and tip-offs was mounting again. As The Sunday Times has reported previously, far from being unknown to the authorities, the bombers and their extremist circle had come to the attention of the police and MI5 on several occasions...

Todays Sunday Times, front page: ''Police tracking bug found in 7/7 mastermind’s car
''MI5 has already been criticised by victims’ relatives and opposition MPs for allegedly failing to act on clues about Khan’s activities before the attacks...With the first anniversary of the bombings next week, the claim has reignited calls for a full public inquiry into what the security services and the police knew about the terrorists before the attacks...''
Focus: How much did they know about Khan?

Saturday, June 24, 2006

The information storm

Every time I say I am going to park it for a bit, for the sake of my health and personal life, the whole damn 7/7 thing, I remember why I can't, and won't, stop campaigning for a proper independent inquiry into 7/7; there is so still much to come out. And now it is coming out. And more will come out soon. It won't stop. We won't stop.

It is an information storm, and amidst the headlines and the theories, there is truth and there is speculation and there is falsehood. And we desperately need a proper independent inquiry to sort out the muddle. Because it becomes clearer and clearer that the bombings that killed 52 and injured 700 last summer could have been stopped, and that the lessons that need to be learned are not being publicly shown to be learned, and that the official accounts are inconsistent and contradictory.

And to me, an insult and a whitewash.

So...we have the Times claim's earlier this week, that the US issued warnings about Khan, lead 7/7 bomber in 2003, which are later refuted as being ''the wrong Khan'' by the Guardian. Then today in the Times 'US police claim terror leaders Sidique Khan was in their sights two years before 7/7'.

This week I was sent a review copy of The London Bombings An Independent Inquiry by Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, reviewed here with other 7/7 books in the Sunday Times, (and which will be reviewed by me shortly, when I have finished it.) Broadly Nafeez argues that there are clear signs of co-operation between Britain and the US and Islamist groups in Central Asia, that there are links between UK intelligemce and terrorist based in Britain, and that the attacks in New York and in London were widely predicted consequences of the West's global strategy.

Now, today's Guardian. An IT expert tells of how he tried to warn of the religious racism, the calls for jihad against the West, the embracing of conspiracy theories and anti- Western propoganda, how he warned police, and provided evidence in 2003 of activity amongst Muslim youths he found sickening. The calls for ''death to those who insult Islam''. It is explosive stuff.

UPDATE: BBC on this story. David Davis, Shadow Home Secretary reiterates calls for a proper independent inquiry. Well, quite.

I can hear the voices starting up already. ''Ah, you wishy washy liberals, now you will see the true extent of the threat. This is why we are in a new war in a new world, and this is why we must have new laws, biometric ID cards, detention without charge, new powers of arrest and surveillance...''

No. Making political capital out of terror is not a good thing. Terror is about just that, instilling terror and fear, and whilst I expect terrorists to try to attack my civil liberties, I do not expect my democratically-elected government to do the same. Not whilst there are already perfectly serviceable laws to protect us from terrorism and to arrest and charge those who plot murder and mayhem and treason and fraud and spread hate-filled propoganda. (Terrorism Act 2000). We just need the police and the security services to act on them properly.

Under the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 the UK government has detained more than 7000 people. Most have been released without charge. Civil liberties group Liberty has said that ''Current anti- terror laws are being used to quell peaceful protest, to detain foreign nationals without trial, and are fostering discrimination against the Muslim community in Britain.

''Meanwhile, unscruplous operatives with documented and often admitted, even widely broadcast connections to al-Qaeda, who certainly do fall under UK anti-terror legislation have been permitted to continue their actions unsanctioned'' argues Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, The London Bombings An Indepenedent Inquiry, p.93. And it seems that he is right.

There has been a catastrophic failure of intelligence, and that is clear. The Intelligence and Security Committee report and the Narrative leave too many questions unanswered. Let's look at just one point to illustrate this.

It seems that the security services were practically blind to the prospect of suicide bombings on UK soil. Hello? The police have had Operation Kratos shoot-to-kill policy running for some years - it is specifically to deal with the situation of officers confronting suicide bombers in urban areas. Simultaneous attacks on London's transport system had been anticipated: re-read London Mayor Ken Livingstone's speech on 7th July.

Ken's speech...

''This was a cowardly attack, which has resulted in injury and loss of life. Our thoughts are with everyone who has been injured, or lost loved ones. I want to thank the emergency services for the way they have responded. Following the al-Qaeda attacks on September 11 in America we conducted a series of exercises in London in order to be prepared for just such an attack. One of the exercises undertaken by the government, my office and the emergency and security services was based on the possibility of multiple explosions on the transport system during the Friday rush hour. The plan that came out of that exercise is being executed today, with remarkable efficiency and courage, and I praise those staff who are involved...''

The ISC report says ''Although improved, collaboration between agencies such as MI5, MI6 and the police must improve further.''

You don't flipping well say, sheesh.

The more we find out, about how the security services let home-grown terrorism with links to international terrorism flourish with impunity on our soil, despite the warnings, and the more we find out about the disconnect between the police and the security services, meaning warnings such as those described as having been given by the computer technician in today's Guardian are ignored and not followed up, the arrogance that assumed suicide terrorism was something that happened in other lands, the more I and others will bang on and on and on about getting a proper independent inquiry, not this insulting narrative and don't-worry-your-little-heads-about it-we're not-to-blame-just-give-us-more resources report from the unaccountable security services.

The security services are already compromised by the clear politicisation of intelligence, as we found out through the ''dodgy dossier'' and the ''sexing-up'' of intelligence to justify the war in Iraq. Now we wonder what the hell else they are trying to conceal.

There is not, I think, a conspiracy. But there are cock-ups and cover-ups and political games being played at the highest level, and it is not tolerable when there are lives at stake.

Tomorrow, and on Monday, you will read in the papers of how one of the victims of 7th July is still in hospital, and of his fight for compensation and for an proper inquiry. Against this backdrop of obfuscation and cover-up, of blame-shifting, and refusal to face up to lessons that urgently must be learned, since the answers are written in the blood of innocents, the refusal to hold a proper inquiry shames the government, shames the security services, and shames us all, while we let it continue. Tomorrow and next week, you will read and see more news on the emerging picture of police missing clues, agencies not communicating with each other, and the calls from the public for a proper inquiry will grow louder and louder.

This is not about 'closure' or' therapy': it is not in fact helping me 'get over' 7th July. Do me a favour. This is not about politics or blame either, if those who made mistakes are the best placed to put them right, let them stay and do so, I say. This is simply about learning lessons, sparing suffering, saving lives. I could not stop the bombers hurting and killing people a year ago. I can do what I can to stop them now. I ask you to join me, and others, who ask for a proper inquiry. If many speak, then they will have to listen.

Petition here, write to your MP here.
Thank you.


UPDATE: Davide ( a blog well worth subscribing to, if you haven't already)

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The longest day

Grazia magazine wanted to run my blog, for their 1 year anniversary. So I edited it down to 2000 words. It is so much quicker to write new stuff than to edit a year of my life down to a spread and a half. To write the feature, I had to re-read the whole blog. It has been one hell of a journey.

I cut out the politics, since it isn't that sort of magazine. I noticed how much of it was about struggling with tube journeys, guilt, anger, fear. The best bits are the passionate, human bits, and that is what I want to continue with. The campaigning is to serve a purpose, but my life is about more than campaigns. So I am going to carry on writing, but about anything and everything that interests me, and go off-piste from PTSD, terror, bombs. Come on 8th July. That day can't dawn fast enough.

Today is the longest day, and this year has felt like the longest year. Groundhog day, same day over and over and over, the echoes of the rainy morning where everything went black and I couldn't see, couldn't hear, couldn't breathe and everything stopped. Then started again. I was born on Groundhog day, February 2nd. Maybe that is why, in my life, the patterns repeat over and over. Or maybe I need the lessons thumped into me harder than most.

But my birthday, February 2nd, is also Candlemas, the Festival of Light and the Purification of the Virgin, and the pagan festival of Imbolc, the day of the sweet milk, the Bridal Bed. A day of light in darkness,when winter becomes spring, when green shoots thrust up and the snowdrops show their faces. I was named Rachel, for the first best-loved bride, the sweet lamb of spring sacrifice, the first-born daughter.

History may repeat itself; but then, everything repeats itself, winter into spring, summer into autumn, sunrise, sunset, moon rise, moonset, seeds germinate and flourish and die. War, evil, division, terror, then people gather up their loved ones and run from the ruins and start all over again. They tell their stories, as they always have, and I am no different to anyone else.

Some years ago, my friends and I followed a custom I learned about when I lived in in Poland: we made garlands, fixed them with memories of the year gone, threw them into the river on Solstice night. As we did so, men flew down from the sky, trailing parachutes and coloured smoke. American tourists gathered round us, and asked if this was a traditional British custom. The garlands, the parachutists? Maybe it will become one, we said. We're letting go, jumping out into the unknown. We want to travel lighter, we said.

Let the current carry it all away, in the rush of air and water. Trust yourself to the elements, let yourself fall, let the last twelve months sluice past you and see where you float.

I am tired, but I can see a way out of it now. I am not the only person on this journey. Further ahead are wise people, shining a light, showing the way. Beside me are fellow-travellers offering support; just behind me, others, whom I can encourage in return. I remember a rough garland, symbol of a year's dreams and anxieties, sinking slowly in a brown London river at sunset, years ago. I'm making a garland in my mind once more, tying this last year to it, then letting it go.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Kings Cross United information

I thought I'd better put some information here about Kings Cross United so that people interested in being new joiners can find out about Kings Cross United group.

Kings Cross United, or KCU, ( I'm typing the words 'Kings Cross United' a lot so it comes up in search engines, sorry) is an informal group set up by survivors of the Piccadilly line train bomb of 7th July for fellow-survivors. It has no leader, though a few of the group manage enquiries and requests to join. Some of us put together a media strategy, with the group's support to find passengers in the early days, and some of us, including myself spoke to the press or appeared on TV. We only did a little bit of media, and only so other survivors could find us. We don't seek a media platform now.

Kings Cross United is a group with no political or religious affiliations that is open to anyone who was on any carriage of the Piccadilly line train, and exists mostly as a kind of virtual lounge where people can use the Kings Cross United group messaging system to stay in contact.

It's not a therapy group, (but some have said it has been as helpful as, or instead of counselling, to find others who know what they went through and understand the after-effects, who can help them piece together what happened on the day.) We have a message board which people use to post their thoughts and share lots of practical information. Some people browse the board and read the messages, just to see how everyone is doing, but don't post much. Others have lots of conversations. Some of us have personal blogs - like this one - where we express our personal thoughts and opinions - you can read other Kings Cross United blogs which are linked in my sidebar. (Obviously we don't all have the same brain because we were on the same train - individual blogs are individual's voices not those of the whole group).

There's over 100 people in the group now, which we think is about 1 in 7 of the people who were on the Piccadilly line train that was bombed. Once a month we go to the pub. (People ask what happens then. We buy each other drinks. We chat. We are usually the last to leave. It is just the same as going to the pub with people from work except there's no office politics!)

We're not a charity and we have never asked for any money - we don't actually need any money for anything as the group software we use is free. (Though a London newspaper did once put £100 behind the bar once for us for our Christmas drinks party).

People pop in and out as they feel like - we're getting busier as the anniversary approaches. We also use instant messenger systems to chat together so that Kings Cross United members not in the U.K - we have members in Spain, Singapore, Turkey, for example - can chat to UK members online and have 'virtual' pub sessions. New members join all the time, from every carriage of the train and are welcomed by the group. If people want to talk to the media we give the survivors the writer's details so they can call the writer themselves, if they don't, no problem as nobody's details are ever passed on - it's a secure group.

Kings Cross United doesn't exist as a media resource for survivor stories; we have only done a limited bit of media, as a group, simply to find other survivors and let them know we exist.The group is wholly private and you can only access the website if you are an invited member of Kings Cross United. We are proud of the way that we have handled media ourselves for 11 months: we have never been misrepresented in the media during the past 12 months, and we have done it all ourselves.

We were up and running within days of the bombs, when fellow-passengers started to read my urban 75 account of the day ( urban 75 is a London web community) and then my BBC web diary of the week and got in touch.

Kings Cross United contains men and women of all ages and backgrounds, from every carriage of the train, plus some of the people who rescued us. The interesting thing is that though none of us knew each other before 7th July, I cannot think of a nicer group of people to be blown up and trapped underground with. If this is a representative sample of ordinary people on a London train - and I think it is - then the world is an all right place.


(1 ) if you want to find fellow passengers and you were on the Piccadilly train, please email kingscrossunited AT and someone from the group will get in touch.

(2) If you feel you would like to talk to someone about the London bombings, you can contact 7 July Assistance Centre, on 0845 054 7444 which is there for anyone affected by the day and provides free support services. They can also help if you were a survivor from one of the other bombs and put you in contact with other survivors.

(3) If you are a journalist and have
a generic 7/7 survivor enquiry
a 'suvivors asking for an independent inquiry' question
or a 'Rachel North question,

please email RachelNorthLondon AT and I'll send you the email and phone number of the PR firm who have very kindly offered free press officer support to the small number of survivors who have said they will speak out over the next few weeks.

I am not a 7/7 press officer and I am simply not able to cope with endless media requests whilst doing my day job. I have been under siege since March. I am not the voice of all 7/7 survivors, I am not going to pass on survivor details or invite media to attend private survivor meetings, and please remember that this is my personal blog, and not to be reproduced for commercial use. It remains my copyright. Thank you.

(Any blog readers wanting to contact me, use that address as well).

(4) If you were directly affected by the 7/7 bombings and you want to join the campaign for an independent enquiry into the London bombs, ( which is a wholly separate thing to non-campaigning, non-political support group Kings Cross United) you can get in contact with us at the first instance via RachelNorthLondon AT as well.

(5) If you'd like to show your support the campaign for an independent inquiry into the London bombings, you can sign the petition here or write to your MP here.

Cheers. Hope that helps clarify things


Monday, June 19, 2006

The Times 'fresh calls for a public inquiry'

The Times front page . Whenever I feel like giving up, I remember why I'm not going to shut up and stop asking for an independent inquiry into 7/7.

''US 'issued alert' on 7/7 bomber in 2003''
By Daniel McGrory
Fresh calls for public inquiry into London bombings after publication of American book claiming terrorist was known
MI5 has always denied knowing that Mohammad Sidique Khan was a danger (GUZELIAN)
THE leader of the July 7 suicide bombers was considered such a dangerous threat that he was banned from flying to America two years before the attack in London, according to a book written by a US intelligence specialist.

Although MI5 has always denied knowing that Mohammad Sidique Khan was a potential danger, the CIA is alleged to have discovered in 2003 that he was planning attacks on American cities...The claims contradict evidence from Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, the Director-General of MI5, to the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee that Khan had never been listed as a terror threat before the attack that killed 52 innocent people.
A senior British security source has told The Times that they were aware of the allegations but said that they were “untrue and one of the many myths that have grown up around Khan”.
However, the disclosures will add to demands for Tony Blair to agree to a full public inquiry into intelligence lapses before the attack on July 7. Families of the victims, preparing to mark the first anniversary, are among those calling for an independent investigation to uncover all that British Intelligence was told about the suicide bombers by international security agencies...

This year, a leading US Senator, Charles E. Schumer, commenting on newspaper reports in New York that US authorities had tipped off British Intelligence, said: “This is the British version of pre-9/11, where a country receives a generalised warning and ignores it with terrible consequences.”
Suskind told The Times: “British intelligence was certainly told about Khan in March and April 2003.
“This was a significant set of contacts that Khan had, and ones of much less importance were exchanged on a daily basis between the CIA and MI5. British authorities were sent a very detailed file.
“This demonstrates a catastrophic breakdown in communication across the Atlantic.”

The Times leader stops short of calling for a full public inquiry, noting ruefully

''Fostering public trust is the answer to conspiracy theories
There is a growing, and regrettable, tendency to reject all official explanations of horrific, headline-making events and see instead plots, conspiracies and cover-ups...
The wish to believe the worst has sometimes been fuelled by unreliable official information put out too soon, as well as by the culture of spin that attempts to deflect well-deserved blame. But conspiracy theories have also been nurtured by disaffected insiders who have seen a chance to embarrass their superiors and are all too willing to spread unprovable allegations.

The bombings in London last July are fertile ground for such conspiracies. Despite the swift and admirably forthright report last month by the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) into 7/7, there have been persistent rumours and speculation that not all the facts were uncovered and that crucial evidence was suppressed to spare the blushes of MI5.

There is room, nevertheless, for a swift, independent assessment of 7/7 and formal recommendations, prefer-ably by a respected public figure, of how security can be improved. This should not divert resources away from the job of making this country safer, but raise the issue of how MI5 and the police can better foster public co-operation, particularly after the Forest Gate episode. It should also look at national priorities. Were the failings of last July the result of a lack of resour-ces?
Is sufficient now being spent in relevant areas, and have enough counter-terrorism experts, especially from ethnic minorities, been recruited? And are relations with US and other intelligence services in good working order? Already the security services have established a confidential hotline, which has yielded useful information. Preventing terrorism must be seen as the responsible and ethical choice of all citizens, and not as snooping on neighbours or acting as stooges.

Inevitably, however, there is much that will remain confidential and that we have to take on trust. We are paying people to be secretive, and so secretive they inevitably will be. The security services must recognise that criticism is not a personal attack, but an inevitable quality of a questioning democracy.''

Well, quite. I am happy with an independent inquiry, with as much of it as possible being publicly available, and the bits that are not, involving rigorous interrogation of the facts with full powers of disclosure by someone with teeth. I'll start by saying'' full public inquiry'', as a negotiation opener, but I can be engaged with, and I am not alone.

The lunatic fringe will continue to speculate and spread offensive nonsense such as '' the Leeds bombers were innocent, '', bothering survivors and whipping up hatred and suspicion with talk of Mason/Zionist/M15 plots. The bereaved will grieve, and survivors puzzle, their questions unanswered, their hopes for lessons learned and information shared which could prevent suffering left to wither. The disconnect between those in power and those who feel powerless will continue to grow. And the suspicion, the cynicism will flourish.

You can sign the petition for an inquiry here. ( Click).

And you'll hear a lot more from people calling for a public inquiry over the next few weeks...

Cheers to The Times and Daniel McGrory.

Not long now

J and I spent the whole weekend working. So I didn't get to see my new nephew, because there wasn't any time.

I cannot wait for all this to be over. I cannot wait for 8th July . I have been writing about this stuff for a year now. I don't think about 7th July all the time anymore, and this blog is the place where I do all that stuff, where I put all the fall out.

If it wasn't for the campaign for a public inquiry, and the interest in 7th July from other people, especially the media, I don't think I'd be thinking about it so much. I still care passionately about the people affected by 7th July. I still think it is important that I do all I can to stop more suffering. There is the impending anniversary to deal with, and the trying to explain to people what PTSD is like so that they can understand and be compassionate to people who have it. All this is important to me. But I have to get through the next two weeks, until 7th July comes once more, and then I have to move away and write about other stuff. A year chronicling the personal and political fall out from one bloody train journey that never ended, and in some ways, still never ends. The anniversary is going to be important; it will, I hope, mark the end of something, a chance to leave a dark place and step out into the sunlight. Safe. Alive, with a life to look forward to that is about more than this last year. With new friends in my life, the people from the train.

I've been struck by how many people have re-evaluated after 7/7. One man has left his City sales job and is retraining as a primary school teacher, another woman is moving to Australia, thinking about being a physiotherapist. Me, my way of getting something positive was to set up the group, to blog about it, to campaign for a public enquiry, to try and help people. Now I want my old life returned to me, so I can see, if I step away, what is different and whether I want anything to change. I've learned lots of things in the last 12 months, met some amazing people, started to write, got engaged. I think that is enough for now. I loved my life last summer, and before I even change anything, I want it back.

'I am so sick of 7th July '', I told J last night as we sat in the darkening garden. He put his arm round me. 'Music to my ears, ' he said.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Guantanamo suicides

''They have no regard to life, neither ours nor their own. And I believe this was not an act of desperation, rather an act of asymmetric warfare waged against us."
Rear Admiral Harry Harris, the camp's commander

Another US official, Colleen Graffy, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy, told the BBC the suicides were "a good PR move to draw attention".

How the U.S hid the suicide secrets of Guantanamo, today's Observer.

From WH Auden, The Shield of Achilles

Out of the air a voice without a face
Proved by statistics that some cause was just
In tones as dry and level as the place:
No one was cheered and nothing was discussed;
Column by column in a cloud of dust
They marched away enduring a belief
Whose logic brought them, somewhere else, to grief.


Barbed wire enclosed an arbitrary spot
Where bored officials lounged (one cracked a joke)
And sentries sweated for the day was hot:
A crowd of ordinary decent folk
Watched from without and neither moved nor spoke
As three pale figures were led forth and bound
To three posts driven upright in the ground.

The mass and majesty of this world, all
That carries weight and always weighs the same
Lay in the hands of others; they were small
And could not hope for help and no help came:
What their foes like to do was done, their shame
Was all the worst could wish; they lost their pride
And died as men before their bodies died.

''Last week Rumsfeld got what he wanted: the removal of media scrutiny from Guantanamo's deepest crisis...''


''The number of soldiers diagnosed with psychiatric problems brought on by the stress of service in Iraq has dramatically escalated since the beginning of the war, according to new figures from the Ministry of Defence.
In 2005, the military authorities were notified of 727 cases of troops with psychiatric disorders brought on by their period in Iraq - an average of 60 each month, or two every day...''
Bush, finally '' I'd like to close Guantanomo'' ( June 14th 2006).
I’d like to close Guantanamo," Mr Bush said. "But I also recognise that we’re holding some people that are darned dangerous, and that we’d better have a plan to deal with them in our courts.
"No question, Guantanamo sends, you know, a signal to some of our friends - provides an excuse, for example, to say, ’The United States is not upholding the values that they’re trying (to) encourage other countries to adhere to.’
"My answer to them is, is that we are a nation of laws. Eventually, these people will have trials and they will have counsel and they will be represented in a court of law."
When? And what will be left of them to represent?
What their foes like to do was done, their shame
Was all the worst could wish; they lost their pride
And died as men before their bodies died.
In the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate, rest in peace, for no-one, whatever they have done - and we don't know, because they were never tried deserved to be left to rot like that. That the nation that promises peace and justice and democracy cannot sort out a trial for those it captures, but instead holds them til they are maddened and despairing in the most hellish conditions; that pictures of such abuse explode the charge of stinking hypocrite in the face of what is said to be done for freedom and democracy, that hearts and minds are turned against America and its allies with vicious consequences here and abroad, is obscene.
Blair's equivocation in the face of all this is vile. Especially as he is both a Christian, and a lawyer.

Wonderful 7/7 journalism

Here are two best pieces of writing that I have seen all year about what happened on and after 7th July. And they come from two members of the same family.

Magnus Linklater's lovely comment piece about the peculiarly British reaction of the survivors.
And Alex Linklater's brilliant 'Aftershock', which is about PTSD.

I wonder whether speaking about the rape, starting this blog, setting up Kings Cross United, speaking to the media about stuff has been driven by this one thing: the need to understand and explain trauma, and to try to help those who suffer from it, and those who know and love them. Trying to help myself and others. I know when I had PTSD for the first time in 2002, I found the crippling isolation, the numbness, anger, avoidance and fear overwhelming, and terrifying. I thought I was going mad. I simply could not understand what had happened to me. Why I felt like a shell, a husk, different to everyone else who seemed to exist on the other side of an impermeable transparent wall through which I could not penetrate, could not hear, could not connect with other humans. It was only when I began to read, to search on the internet, to educate myself and to find the first-person accounts of those who had been there too, swimming in the goldfish bowl of fear and remembered, re-experienced aftershock, triggered by suddenly-inexplicably- sinister ordinary things: a smell of aftershave, footsteps behind me, pressure on my throat, soft cloth over my mouth, that I began to understand. So when it happened again, on 7th July, I tried to write what I would have wanted to read, the words of someone else who had been there and who understood PTSD. I hoped it would help me and others.

Afterwards, there also came political campaigning. That, too, was the need to try to understand, to stop the horror happening again, here, abroad, anywhere, everywhere. I was always very interested in news and politics, but later it became personal and passionate. Because I had come close to death twice, I was afraid of everything, and then, afraid of nothing. It became important to fight back, to cherish what was important to me, to stand up for what I believed in, so that if I died, there would have been some small mark left by my time here, I could go knowing I had at least tried to make things better. Maybe it is survivor guilt, maybe it is my way of trying to make sense of the senseless.

It's hard to explain when people say it is all pointless, hopeless, or when they ask why I bother, or say sneeringly that I want to be famous, some kind of celebrity. Yes, I say to these people, you're right. I failed the Big Brother auditions, I'm not rich or thin enough to be snapped by Hello so I got raped and then blew up my train. Anything to be on telly.

Holly and I got drunk last night in her garden. She had enjoyed her holiday, she had laughed and laughed with old friends and new friends. She is as brown and rangy as a film star. She made a new friend who was a fireman, he and she had somehow recognised each other as members of the club that nobody wants to be part of. The club who knows what ''triggering'' means, why sometimes when you are desperate for sleep you dare not close your eyes for fear of what you will see, and smell and hear when you dream. ''The fucked-up loonies club'', the club with the darkest sense of humour of all. The club I am unwillingly in, where I have met some of the most human, the strongest, the most compassionate people I have ever met. And so I stay hopeful, because of other people.

Thank you Alex and Magnus for what you wrote. You made me feel proud.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Media enquiry? Please read...

Email it to RachelNorthLondon AT googlemail DOT COM.

And I will pass it over straight away to the PR professionals who are kindly helping us out, gratis. We know that you have deadlines and it is your job to ask people for stories. You are likely to get your interview, if it is a *reasonable request, but the PR firm are now going to take over all the organising and liasing and what have you, so I and others don't get swamped answering all the enquiries. Goody, I am now going to water my lavender bushes with a considerably lighter heart.

* however, to the Screwspaper that asked for ''an attractive family, with kiddies'', whose mum or dad had died or been badly injured, ''willing to pose at a party with presents and gifts and entertainers and so on'', signifying the wily paper's desire to reach out and touch the lives of victims in a heart-string-strumming, cockle-warming, entirely contrived and rather offensively sick-making And yes, sometimes words do fail me. Which is why you didn't get a reply.

Take a load off

I am exhausted. This is what it has been like for the last few weeks: Get up, deal with emails, go to work. (Have started getting taxis again because I had a panic attack last week: the weather was wet and grey and muggy, like 7th July. The train was crowded. I started to smell the bomb, hear the bang, taste the smoke and blood. I was shaking and running with cold sweat, heart thundering, mouth dry, ringing in my ears. I walked away, arrived at work late. I can't cope with the journey at the moment, I know I am supposed to master the fear and get better that way, my therapist says, but I haven't the resources right now.)

Lunchtime: reply to more emails. Work in the afternoon. Evening: reply to more emails. Weekends: reply to more emails. Sleep badly.
The emails are mostly from the media wanting me to put them in contact with survivors. I don't give out names, but I have been passing messages on. In the last two weeks I have been contacted by:

BBC World Service, BBC News, ITN, Channel 4 news, More 4 news, Channel 5 news, Sky news, BBC Radio, GMTV, BBC Breakfast, CNN, Grazia, Closer, More, Woman, Woman's Own, 3 Japanese TV companies, 4 Japanese newspapers, a Swedish magazine, a Danish newspaper, The Sun, the Mail, the Mail on Sunday, the News of the World, The Times, The Mirror, the Sunday Mirror, the Evening Standard, Finanicial Times, Reuters, Associated Press, Capital Radio, RTE Radio, Scotland Sunday Mail, Sunday Telegraph, Readers Digest, Radio 1 newsbeat, LBC, BBC Radio Yorkshire, Asian Network, Able magazine, Time Out, the Guardian, 3 TV programmes, Panorama, Bella, Eve, You magazine, Real, B magazines, Deutsche Welle TV, Sydney Morning Herald, ABC, CBC, someone writing a book on trauma.

All of them want the same thing - a survivor's take on the day/a year on. Bite-size camera-friendly chunks of someone's soul. We need a full time press officer for this, it isn't really fair that survivors should be managing all the media enquiries. Maybe this is a learning that we can share with the Home Office and Tessa Jowell when we meet them again.

I have tried to reply to everyone and to pass their requests onto people via the group messaging services that we use. Lots of them want to talk to me, particularly, because of this blog. I feel over-exposed, I say no, mostly. I will do some, but it is mad being all over the news. It's scary. I do not want to be famous or recognisable. This is temporary though and soon I will go back to obscurity, hooray.

There are some survivors who want to speak out, but not many, and most want to stay well away from the media. I can see why, this is a news machine that is voracious and right now, feels out of control. And after you have spoken again to a kind professional stranger, of the fear, the screams, the painful aftermath, whether you are numb, or angry, or have tears in your eyes for the ones you couldn't help, what then? The cameras and microphones pack up and move on, and you are left shuddering and exhausted in the aftermath, transported once more to that place of private fear and guilt and sadness, the toxic smoke of a year ago.

Some of us are willing to do it, because we are campaigning for a public inquiry, and better compensation for those left to buy their own wheel chairs after the bombs maimed and changed lives irrevocably. Some of us are considering one last push to tell people about Kings Cross United, the group run by survivors for survivors, that is non-political, and private, and is the place where passengers can find the people who stood near them in the darkness, trapped underground, people who know what you mean when you say that you are haunted by last July still. There are 700 from our Piccadilly line train who may not know that others feel as they do, and if it will help, if they want to find us, we are here.

(kingscrossunited AT Other people feeling affected by July 7th may want to call the 7th July Assistance Centre 0845 054 7444 - which is for anyone feeling affected by the bombs)

However much I try, I haven't enough hours in the day now to do this enormous task of managing the massive media interest in 7/7 people for the next few weeks. I know it will go away soon, and I am looking forward to it. I am not interested in being a flipping celebrity bomb survivor; that is not my game plan for my life. I am however interested in writing, that was the good thing that came out of the bombs for me, I started to write. We all do what we can to help, use the skills we have. The group web strategist set up the website, designed a logo, helped with media strategy. Other people who live near each other act as travel buddies. People who get the intermittent official communications share them with those who don't. I have tried to help, but it is too much to cope with as a second job, being an unpaid press officer for dozens of people, especially as I am noticing that the anniversary effect is starting to take me back to where I hoped I would no longer have to go. I keep wanting to cry, having headaches. I haven't been to the gym, barely seen my friends, done anything apart from work work work and July 7 work work work. I am weepy and sorry for myself because I am tired.

The media approaches by the most part have been sympathetic and kind, and even a little hesitant. But this gentle approach 'works' very well on me, I naturally want to try to help so I have been running myself ragged trying to meet all these reasonable demands which when taken cumulatively are not reasonable and are too demanding.

Yesterday it came to a head. I found out that a magazine was going to press with an interview in whcih they had - accidentally I hope - broken my anonymity - they had interviewed my mother, and though I had said I did not want to be quoted or pictured or identified, they had done just that. I begged. They changed it, at the 11th hour, stopped the presses and safeguarded my identity. (I was upset, because I have a stalker, whom the Metropolitan police are now investigating, working with with Thames Valley police, to whom the obsessive person is well-known, having a history of harrassment of others and seeming to thrive on engineered conflict. I've taken legal advice and now lodged a formal complaint with the police, who are now going to investigate fully. The stalker reacted to this news by making a police complaint against me, and blogging vitriolically, sending sneering or angry anonymous/psedonymous comments wherever I post, leaving anonymous comments supportive of herself on her blog, and rather bizarrely, accusing me of everything that she's been up to herself. So now, I'm the stalker, I'm the bully, I'm alleged to be insane and need psychiatric help, I'm sending her angry emails, have a vendetta and so on; now the police have apparently warned me off - when it is her odd complaint against me that has been found to be baseless. The police must be well fed up with her. This distinctly odd behaviour completely confused me until I read up about bully profiles and tendency to projection and other disturbed behaviour at this useful site. Anyway, now I get it, and so am taking steps to get it all sorted out. The more she carries on, the more evidence I collect and pass on, so she can be stopped. ) The main issue was my legal right to anonymity because of the attack in July 2002, so. I was very upset at the threat to it. But the magazine listened, and the feature was changed so I was not identifiable, or pictured or quoted. Thank God.)

Enough, though, that was the last straw. It frightened me. It really shook me up, and I was at work, it didn't look good to be dragged into all this. Fortunately it happened in my lunch break.

I am so pleased, relieved beyond measure that I have asked for help and I have now got it. A top PR firm has offered to help, for free, to protect us and to manage the requests which increase in number every day. We don't want money, or fame, we need protection and help and advice. At last, we have got it. I am so grateful and pleased. Last night I slept for eight hours, I felt physically lighter with the burden taken off me.

I have found that there are people who really want to help, and this practical assistance is the most helpful thing that anyone could have done for me right now. I have to finish off the handover notes and some writing I have promised this weekend, then I can stop. Then I can finally stop. Then I can be me again, and have lunch hours and evenings, pay bills, do admin, go swimming and dancing, see friends, go for walks, eat dinner with J. I can't wait.

Monday, June 12, 2006

The Sharpener

My first post on The Sharpener is now up, called Hearts and Minds.
Regular readers of this blog will recognise the subject matter, but for future posts I hope to diversify away from familiar territory and explore other political subjects besides terrorism. However, we're approaching the anniversary, and so it's still much on my mind.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Awaiting my nephew's arrival

Well, it is a nail-biting afternoon. My sister-in-law's waters have broken, and my family are preparing for the arrival of a first nephew and grandchild. I hope his journey into the world is safe and easy.

England have played their first match in the World Cup, and the flags flutter from cars, the Pimms sinks down easily and the sun shines. The happy, hopeful days are upon us. The lavender, rosemary, geraniums and jasmine give off sweet scents as I pour water over them. Sweet soul music plays from my neighbour's garden. Planes leave vapour trails in a blue, blue, sky. Miff purrs, and stretches, and rolls in the dust in the yard, the breeze ruffling her fur. I am licking my sticky fingers, and eating cucumber and orange slices soaked in sweet spirits and lemonade from the empty jug. Swallows dart and swoop as I look out of my window, and my skin is turning golden. Welcome summer, welcome little Angus; when you come, I hope that you find a shining world full of love.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

A few things to share...

People have been reflecting on the London Assembly report. I am still reading it, mostly late at night, it doesn't make it easy to sleep. This is a lovely article, following the London Assembly report and the testimony of individuals, although it made me cry it also made me proud , and this, from the Daily Mail, of all places, is harrowing. The commenter, Alison Pearson is supportive of survivor's calls for a public enquiry.

Justin at Chicken Yoghurt has asked the PM a good question. I found Blair's answers depressingly glib and polished. I think he really believes that he is right, and criticism just bounces off him. Nothing can get through any more. Maybe it is how he copes.

Last night I met a 7th July survivor who is still in hospital. His courage and calmness in the face of terrible injuries after his near-death, and how he faces a life utterly changed are humbling and inspiring and put my own worries into perspective. We talked for three hours in his hospital room, where he has spent endless, boring, painful hours since last summer. He wants a public enquiry, very badly. And I and others will do what I can to help him get one.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Email to a journalist

I have never been so busy in my whole life and I am quite scared of burning out. Maybe I will feel better if I blog and have a moan for ten minutes. Okay. I know this will all be over soon. But it is getting too much. I am averaging 20 calls and 60+ emails a day, about July 7th . I am struggling to cope; I am trying to be fair and polite to all who get in contact, and others are helping me, we are all doing our best to share this, and I know there is only 4 weeks of it to get through. But I could do with more help. I am working full time, so this all has to be done in the moring, lunchtime and after work and weekends. Most media requests are polite and sensitive, but some are pushy and rude and some just do not get it, at all.

I think I have coped okay, but I am wondering how we can manage the next few weeks if it continues at this level, or gets even more busy. I will reply to every email, but if you have written and not heard back, it is because I have simply not yet had time.

J and I are meant to be going on holiday on the evening of July 7th, and that has been keeping me going, thinking of that. But now his bloody firm have said they do not think he can take that time off, and I am a bit weepy with frustration and disappointment, because that has been what has been keeping me going. It's not the worst thing that has happened to me, not going on holiday when I want to, but sometimes it is the small things that I cannot cope with.

I just vented a bit of this frustration at a journalist, whose email, politely phrased and clearly well-intentioned, touched a very raw nerve. This is what I wrote:

''Sorry for snapping at your request to me to ''record your thoughts throughout the day from getting up in the morning through the exact time that the bombs detonated and then on through the day, finishing with the memorial ceremony that evening'' on 7th July 2006.

For the record, I think it is very unlikely that anyone I know will agree to such a request, ( to be interviewed so intimately or do a video/audio diary on the 7/7 anniversary) as everyone I have spoken to has said they are anxious to avoid the media on the day and be as private as possible. That is why some of us have agreed to do limited pre-records in the hope that we can be left in peace on the day itself.

I am in contact with many survivors now, and I note that the desire for privacy has been expressed very strongly. I have passed on all media requests faithfully to the two groups. I know some of us are speaking out at the moment but that is because we are campaigning for a public enquiry, and so we have to speak to the media to get that message across.
For us July 7th 2006 is an important day, one we have thought about for months. It is a day when some of us will try to take a big step towards the future, and to walk away from the smoke and the screaming, having done our best to honour the memory of those who travelled with us who did not finish their journey. Some of us still feel guilty that we are alive, some of us still struggle to understand the incomprehensible. It is going to be a hard day. It will be even harder if the over-riding memory of that day is running from the cameras and microphones.

It is hard to cry when a camera is in your face, it is impossible to speak and answer questions when you want to be silent. And sometimes there are no words to say.

So this is a plea for sensitivity, and I wonder if you would be able to post it round the news staff, as I and have always found [your media organisation] to be the kindest and most sensitive of all the media outlets. I will post it on my blog too.

Many thanks


Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Holly on the report

Blogger and fellow passenger Holly's thoughts on the London Assembly 7/7 Report can be found on The Guardian's commentisfree here


Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, whose inspiring speech on 7th July did so much to draw London together, accused the London Assembly of ''nit-picking'' yesterday. For heaven's sake, Ken, they were not picking nits, they were picking out ways in which lives could be saved and suffering spared by improving communication. Which, it has to be said, was chaotic and at times, appalling. And the brave and compassionate men and women of the London Underground, the police, the emergency services and the many ordinary citizens of London were rightly praised for their courage and calmness. We held it together, all of us, all of London, many lives were saved. People did their best, and they did phenomenally well, at full stretch, in the midst of chaos and carnage.

Everyone has said that. The reports said that, the survivors interviewed said that. So it is not fair to portray this as nit-picking. Or whinging.

What is being criticised - the aim simply being to learn useful lessons from it - is the failures of planning and communication. It is not acceptable to not have radios that don't work underground, eighteen years after this fault was highlighted in the Kings Cross fire disaster. It is not a good idea to let thousands of witnesses who need care, who may have breathed-in god-knows-what, and whose testimony may be vital in a massive murder investigation, wander off into the street, in shock, without taking down their details.

I have not heard survivors calling for blame to apportioned, or people to be sacked, in the emergency services, or the intelligence services or the police.

What I have heard is people asking for a simple public interrogation of the facts so that people, organisations, official departments can then share the learnings with each other, and so help to stop suffering and save lives in the future. I will be thrilled when I can go on holiday and disappear into obscurity. I do not want to be Rachel North Bomb Victim for my whole life. I am banging on and on because I have been asked to, and because I am desperate to get something positive out of this. Show me that lessons are being learned, sort out an independent enquiry and I will happily shut up.

I do not want others to go through what we have gone through. It's too late for 52 innocent passengers, but we might be able to make other journeys safer. I object to repressive, ill-thought-out legislation being drafted, and, insultingly, passed by politicians in the name of the victims, who have not actually been consulted as to whether they think it will actually do any good, (as if our views should be worth more than any other voters' views, anyway). This is not good government. This is panicking.

Before we go shredding the fabric of the constitution, before our leaders rush about with snappy soundbites about the ''rules having changed'', can we not all pause, breathe, and have a sensible independent review of what can be learned from a real example of a terror attack? It's good management practice, after all - analyse success and failure and share the learnings and apply the lessons and resource accordingly. It's a damn sight more sensible than wasting billions on ID cards, that's for sure. Sheesh.

London Assembly 7/7 Report - news coverage

Well, I think we got our points across. We organised so that we had someone on every channel, on every news programme. That was round one. There will be more.

Today, the papers are covering the lessons of July 7th in some detail.
The Times, on how plans were informed by 9/11, on the emergency planning failures, the terrible untold stories, leading article London lessons.
The Guardian on chaos leads for calls for public enquiry, Survivor's Stories, Q&A, Intelligence needed, Emergency services criticised, survivor John Tulloch
The Financial Times on 7/7 communication problems
The Telegraph on radio failure, 'It was like you'd imagine hell to be'
The Independent on individual heroism and official incompetence, failings 'unacceptable, vital lessons from a terrible day
The Daily Mail
The Sun
The Mirror, '6000 victims', Voice of the Mirror
BBC Survivor's Views, report failings
The Washington Post
Associated Press

The London Assembly report in full
The petition for a public enquiry, which anyone can sign, wherever you live, is here

Monday, June 05, 2006

7/7 Report from London Assembly out now

The London Assembly's report is out at 10am, and well done to all the survivors who have spoken out to give testimony, publicly and privately. Some of us met up on Friday and we've talked to the media, who are giving a lot of coverage to the story. We are really hoping that lessons will be learned from what the London Assembly report says, and our calls for an independent inquiry will be heeded - we still haven't learned the lessons of 7th July and until we do, what chance to we have of improving communication, response and so saving lives and sparing suffering? What could be more important than that? We hope that our experiences can be used to help others in the future, and rather than having a blame-session, everyone works together to publicly interrogate all, not just some, of the facts relating to 7th July, and to learn from them and implement the learnings straight away because that will help us all to stay safer.

I am at work now, and I cannot let this keep interupting my work, it looks very bad to get so many personal calls and emails from journalists, and I am now getting into real trouble for it, but other passengers have been great, and they have run with the media enquiries and we are all working together so as many voices as possible can be heard.

Sky news
BBC news, and more BBC news
Radio 4
Radio 5 live
Sunday Times
London Assembly site

This blog, and also here ( includes fellow passengers' thoughts)

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Making terror a teacher

I have written another piece for the Sunday Times News Review, a follow-up to this.

On Friday night a determined group of survivors and bereaved from Edgware Rd, Kings Cross and Aldgate met to discuss how best to manage the intense media interest of the next 5 weeks as we approach 7th July . I am getting dozens of emails and calls a day, which is getting very hard to manage, as I am at work and I have to do all this in my lunch hours, evenings and weekends. I pass requests round the survivor groups, as requested. Some I am asked to do myself. I am getting a bit spooked by the levels of personal exposure, it's impacting on my job and personal life, and I can't wait to go back into obscurity. But there is such a big public interest in 7th July, and those of us who are campaigning for an independent enquiry know to get our message across we must work with the media and explain why we want one, and tell our stories. So we're doing so, and those who can't stand to be in front of cameras are doing written interviews, or radio, or writing letters, or helping with organisation and administration.

I've asked for a public inquiry since last autumn, and the momentum is gathering, so I can't walk away now. And we won't stop until we get there. Not whilst the tubes remain as unsafe, the survivors still wait for counselling, the dreadfully injured struggle to comprehend lives without limbs on a pay out of just over £100, 000 to last the rest of their lives, and have to pay for their own prosthetic limbs and care. Not while the communication between Government, police, security, emergency services departments doesn't happen properly, the question of where the radicalisation comes from isn't discussed, not whilst the important, unanswered questions remain.

I, and the others I have spoken to, are very sure that much, much more could be learned from July to save lives and spare suffering in the future. We do not want this for political reasons - this is completely above party politics. We don't want it for 'blame' reasons - if people cocked up, but they are the most experienced person for the job and can put it right, they should stay and do so. We certainly don't want it for ''therapy/ closure'' reasons - each time I speak or write about 7th July it takes me back there. I certainly don't like the media attention, but I am quite good at talking and writing so that's the skill I offer the group. I'm rubbish at admin, so thankfully I don't have to manage that. We all do what we can to help.

People have asked about my plans for the anniversary. I absolutely do not want to talk to the media on that day, for me, it is an important private day. I want to be with the people who were on my train. On July 7th 2006, I will pay my respects to my fellow passengers who did not finish their journey, and for all the victims of 7th July, and of all bombs, and I will lay down my flowers and stand in silence for those lives so cruelly cut short, and think of those who suffer still, the grieving, the injured, the traumatised. I will be grateful for the life I still have, and for the privilege of meeting so many incredible people this year, the strangers from my train who have become my trusted friends and companions on a journey we never throught we would take together. I will give thanks for the help that came and continues to come, from individuals who are committed to rescue and healing. I will raise a glass to twelve months having passed since I walked away from death and destruction. And I will hope, and keep asking, for an independent enquiry as to why all this happened, because in that analysis lie the seeds of hope for the future, by understanding and learning, we can take the terror and make it a teacher, and so do our part to ensure that our experiences on 7th July do not happen to others, again and again.

And then, on the evening of July 7th, I will fly away on holiday with my beloved J, and for the first time since he asked me to be his wife in February, we will have some time together to relax and to plan our wedding, which we've moved to next spring. The campaigning for a public inquiry will continue, and I will do what I can to help with it on my return. But I hope the anniversary will mark the end of a personal journey for me, and I will be walking into the sunlight at the end of the dark tunnel, leaving the darkness, the smoke, the screaming behind. I will continue to write, though. About whatever interests me, which is more than 7th July. For now, this is a campaigning blog.

Five more weeks. I'm not facing them alone. There are many at my side. Thank God.

If you want to add your support, please do so, by signing the petition here.
The petition says'' We the British Public'' but there were people from all over the world on the trains and buses, and anyone who wants to sign, wherever you live, please do. (I am sorry that some conspiracy theorists have tried to hijack the petition and say it was an 'inside job'', but please ignore them...) and if you want to, add your name to the survivors and bereaved and the public who think the enquiry needs to happen for sensible reasons.

Thank you.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Waiting for the 7 July Report

Sorry I have not blogged much. Work is madly busy, the campaign for an independent public enquiry is hotting up, and answering enquiries about the lack of an enquiry is taking up a lot of time. You'll hear me and others talking a lot about this in the next few weeks. Monday sees the publication of the London Assembly 7th July Review Committee report; with harrowing testimony from thirty or so survivors, plus the emergency services, communications providers and other key people from the day. This is the first, the only public interrogation of the facts so far, and the report ( which will be a lot longer than the Narrative or the ISC report) was produced by a cross party committee, with very modest resources and a strictly limited remit ( two full time staff shared the job as well as well as other duties.) ''It is not,'' in the words of the Chair Richard Barnes, ''intended to be a substitute for a full public enquiry''. The Committee began investigating in September; they produced a report of well over a hundred pages ten months later. If the local London Assembly can do this, then why the bloody hell can't the national Government manage something? When asked this by survivors, Dr Reid kept talking about the Bloody Sunday enquiry - a cumbersome leviathan of a legal bun-fest. Why pick on such an extreme? ( ha, rhetorical question). Do the Government have so little confidence in their ability to hold a reasonable public enquiry or independent enquiry that comes in on time and on budget and reassures the public that they are doing and learning all they can to protect us? Why do we have to be content with a series of pamphlets produced behind closed doors as a result of ''internal enquiries'' - by people appointed by the Prime Minister - that manage to find nobody to blame and outrageously manage to mention the bloody Iraq war not at all, even to dismiss it as a radicalising factor in the bombers? We are exhorted not to be afraid, by Ministers with body guards who work in buildings protected by concrete bollards and armed police, who are driven to work in armoured cars - then in the same breath we are told we face grave threats, and must surrender our civil liberties and carry I.D as we last did as a temporary measure in a time of threatened enemy invasion and ariel bombardment from weapons of mass destruction and nerve gas fears; we must submit to ever more intrusive surveillance, lest one of us, maddened beyond endurance, should self-detonate outside the one mile exclusion zone around Parliament Square.

What the hell is there to be afraid of? You tell me. I get on the tube. I am afraid. But I need to get to work. I'm not in charge of protecting the nation. Is keeping your job more important than saving innocent lives and sparing suffering? The survivors and bereaved I have spoken with have said that it is not about blame, but can nobody in Government see further than a possible threat to their own career? Can anyone in power really say they have listened and they have learned and they have acted on what they have learned? I don't know. Nobody does.

The London Assembly report will detail in page after page the chaos after the carnage, the communication breakdowns, the harrowing testimony of those who held dying strangers and called out for rescuers that were held back from entering tunnels because of ''protocol'', the desperate attempts of ordinary people to help each other in the confusion, the heroism of individuals, police officers, fire officers, and other emergency service workers and London Underground staff. It will also ask questions and make recommendations. It will state the fears of so many that nothing has changed, little has been learned. Are we any safer - or are we less safe than we were a year ago?

Your thoughts would be appreciated...after all, you're the public, you're the target, and you're the ones walking the streets, and travelling on public transport, in London, and everywhere else. Do you feel confident that all the lessons have been learned from last summer? Do you think we'd cope any better with another 7th July? And if the answer is yes, then I'm pleased, and envious - but I wonder if you will still feel the same after the news on Monday.