Thursday, July 20, 2006

Last night

Last night I was privileged to spend time with three extraordinary people, none of whom I would have met if it had not been for 7/7. Due to a series of problems I was very late for my drink with John, whom I had met when we both attended the CAMPACC meeting in the House of Lords last week. I had heard, read much about him, seen him on TV and vice versa, wondered if we might meet, one day.

I am reading his book at the moment, and it is enlightening; quite a lot of his experiences and many of his views mirror my own. He is hoping for a public inquiry, and as he had tickets for the theatre, and I had other arrangements too, we agreed to meet up on Monday so we could talk properly. I am looking forward to it; not just talking about the bomb, but the aftermath, the media storm, the bigger picture, the wierdness of being witness and victim and writer in the midst of what turned out to be an event given not just personal, but political, social, cultural resonance.

Then I raced to Finsbury Park to meet Kathryn and Linda, who I have been corresponding with for a year as they read my blog. Kathryn's daughter Shelley died on my carriage.

Their warmth and love was apparent from ten yards away; I cannot remember when I last met two such great-hearted women, with such big hugs.We went to a favourite restaurant, and ate fire-grilled lamb and salad. We laughed a lot. And cried. They told me about their home, in New Zealand, their trip to Prague, where Shelley spent New Year, showed me the lake where they live. It reminded me of the Lake District where we went for family holidays each year, where my uncle was a parish priest. Kathryn gave me a book of her beautiful poems that she had written For Shelley, I remember seeing and hearing her read one out at the Commemoration ceremony on July 7th 2006. About the moon, that shines over both sides of the world. Afterwards, we sat in my little yard and drank wine under the stars, and I lit small candles.

Shelley's was the name I said out loud as I let free my white balloon in Tavistock Square with Kings Cross United on the anniversary. The balloon flew straight up, though it was windy, and it flew close to the other ballooons, 26 of them, one for each person murdered on the Piccadilly train, released by other passngers who had escaped with their lives.

I was, I am, so desperately sorry, that all this happened. Shelley should still be here, walking home in the heat of the evening, after having a beer with her friends in town, looking forward to the weekend, as I am; and Kathryn and Linda should be watching the sun set over the lake in New Zealand, arm in arm. It should not be like this. And I can only stand in awe as people whose hearts and bodies have been so injured smile into my face, and ask how I am doing, with such compassion in their voices.

I feel humbled and glad to have met these people, and only sorry for the circumstances which made our paths cross. I cried before I went to sleep, at the unfairness of it all.

J had to work all night long; he came in at 6am. He has been late in every night; he is shattered, and has so much work to complete before we go on holiday. We are both very tired, but his work load is ridiculous and I am worried about him. I have bought him a shirt and the first half of the second series of Lost, to cheer him up.

Another person who is tired is Danny, who spent the day practising climbing stairs on his new legs. Yesterday was the hottest day for 90 years. 'No, there isn't any air con', he said, 'this is the NHS!'. I try, but I can't imagine. I'm running with sweat just sitting here typing.

I caught up via phone and email with some of the Edgware Rd people who attended a meeting with the Home Secretary and The Secretary of State Tess Jowell. Aldgate had their meeting last week, Kings Cross next week. We all tell each other what was said and keep in touch. Public inquiry stuff, who asked what, what was said, what was inferred, promised, denied...Danny and I caught up on the latest news, as he wasn't able to attend the meeting himself and Jacqui, a survivor from Edgware who took lots of notes is going to fill him in as well. I hope Danny gets to have a meeting with the Home Office soon. He can't get into London, so Jacqui suggested that the next meeting happens outide of London.

You give up being angry after a while, you just get more determined. It is good that senior people in the Government are engaging and talking and listening. Somebody said that we are helping them, the government - they want to listen and learn. I suppose so they can manage it better next time. Or maybe they want us to be placated and go away.

Private meetings don't seem to stop anyone whose after an inquiry wanting one, though, and that was made pretty clear by the sound of things. It's all very well meeting the victims behind closed doors, but we are just random people. This needs to be a discussion that is public, because the whole public are at risk, not just us. It's totally missing the point to assume we just want answers for just for ourselves, so we can shut up and go away. It's never been about that, closure. It's been about trying to use what happened to us to stop it happening to others.

And if we are angry, pesistent, keep asking awkward questions, well, that's what happens when you bomb a random cross section of the British public, it seems.

Tonight's news: more bombs. Every bomb I hear about, I reverberate, I remember, I feel the tug of empathy. Over a third of those killed in Lebanon, in the latest Middle East violence, are children. More than ever, this war on terror, these tactics, these beliefs and policies need to be challenged, and if by some fluke I, and John, and Danny, and Jacqui, and Kathryn, and Linda, and Michael, and all the rest of us end up being the pests who do the challenging, well, so be it. What else is there to do? Give up? Get scared? Back down?

Maybe nearly being killed, or losing someone you love, through the blowback of the war on terror changes you. Maybe you stop being scared of authority. You don't have a quiet life, even if you want one, so what do you do with the life you have? All this. And more.


Blogger Bumble Bee said...

You are an inspiration, I don't know how you keep going. The support you give to so many others just fills me with hope to find more people in life just like you.
If you speak to Kathryn again tell her how my mum and I cried to her poem. My mum in Australia has said since I have been overseas she looks at the moon every evening and thinks of me as it's the same moon I look at!
Big hugs sweets

July 21, 2006 10:43 am  
Blogger JM said...

Well said on the subject of changing tactics. The governments of the US and Britain, and now Israel, appear to have completely rejected the lessons of the past. It should be clear now more than ever that in these pre-emptive offensive attacks (whether in Iraq or Lebanon) it is ordinary civilians who ultimately end up paying the price and not the terrorists. As we are the world's wealthiest and most developed countries we have a responsibility that is greater than any one agenda to set a example of morality and justice to the rest of the world. It is true that terrorism and the fight against are very different than other conflicts in our planet's history but the rules which govern moral propriety have not. -marina

July 21, 2006 6:50 pm  
Blogger maakhter said...

Muhammad Azeem Akhter

It is nice to hear that you have raised the issue of state-sponsored-terrorism. Killing of innocent civilians in the Muslim world is not going to help the West in its so-called ‘war on terror’. The people who hate terrorists should not act like one...Read More

July 21, 2006 8:03 pm  
Blogger fifipoo07 said...

You know what rachel? Bush and blair need to pay alot of attention to your opinions as you are a survivor of an attack made by their enemy in the so called "war on terror". I have been more and more apalled by the behaviour of these two men in the past few days, the infamous video of them at the G8 just said it all. Bush appeared to treat the G8 summit like a country club board meeting and Blair looked completely ineffectual. BTW when i was doing all the stuff for 7/7 i read all the obituaries, and I remember shelleys one well. Reading those really brought it all home to me. When you just hear about numbers you can easily forget the people behind them. Reading those really reminded of how normal all these people were. I wish John, Shelley's parents, danny, yourself and all else involved the best in your continueing journeys. I hope things improve for j, lost is one that always cheers me up 2. Especially jack and sawyer (lol). BTW Will you be able to post any details of what goes in the kings cross meeting? Pippa

July 21, 2006 11:29 pm  
Blogger City Slicker said...

You inspire each of us Londoners.

May we all find peace.

Your blog is enormous. keep it up


July 22, 2006 12:10 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

some people have started calling this war on terror a third world war while others say that it's similar to the cold war. in this war on terror, there isn't nearly as much bloodshed as in ww1 or ww2; however, there seems to be more violence than there was in the cold war.

July 22, 2006 9:40 pm  
Blogger fifipoo07 said...

Hi rachel. I know that you have worked for the bbc so would have a good perspective on this. The BBC's impartiality is always coming under attack, and quite randomly i came across an article from a conservative right wing site which basically slags this off. I was v incensed so i wrote a post on it. If you have the time to read the article i would appreciate your views. Pippa

July 22, 2006 10:44 pm  

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