Saturday, July 08, 2006

One year on

Picture from BBC website
Yesterday was a private day, didn't talk to any cameras, wanted to be with people who were on my train, and J, who has put up with all this for a year, and who was able to join me in the evening .

Got up early, thought about last 12 months, posted, then travelled into London on the Piccadilly line tube, in the first carriage, same spot that I had stood on 7th July a year ago. Just like last year, the weather was rainy, the carriages were very full, the trains were late. The first train I got on I had to get off again, before it departed Finsbury Park, where I start my journey, because there was an angry man with a rucksack who spooked me, but I did get on the next one. It was a hot, crushed, and for me, frightening journey, but it had to be done.

Nobody was reading about 7/7 in the newspapers. They all had the page open at a different story.

As we went through the tunnel, I watched through the window as we left Kings Cross until we got to the spot where the explosion happened. You can see exactly where it was, because the electric cables on the side of the tunnel which were destroyed by the bomb in the centre of carriage one, have been replaced and are a brighter, less dirty red. I said a prayer. Rest eternal grant unto them, O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon them. It was so dark there. Then I got off at Russell Square, a bit shakey, feeling a sense of relief.

I met people from KCU. There were lots of police and some cameras and news crews, but we avoided the media. This was one day when I needed to be just Rachel.

We went back down to the platform. I stood with other people from carriage one at 8.50am in silence for two minutes, with Dave, who was the station supervisor at Russell Square on the day. There were trains running, instead of a bang, silence, then screaming.

We stood at the end of the platform, looking down the dark tunnel, where we had been pulled from the tracks by LU staff after walking 500m from the smoking ruins of the carriage a year ago.

We met a nice springer spaniel who was on bomb sniffing duty and his handler. (I used to have a springer called Dipper, she was a lovely dog but her contribution to public safety was minimal. But I loved her more than any other dog I ever had.)

Afterwards we went to a hotel with Dave. Dave wasn't on duty yesterday, but he had come in in uniform to help, as he had helped on the day, running into the tunnel when he heard the explosion, passing us all walking out led by the co-driver, and went into the carriage to give first aid, using his clothes as tourniquets to save limbs and lives until rescue came. Dave is one of the people who says 'anyone would have done it, and I would do it again.' London is a proud city because of people like Dave.

We talked to other people from carriage one and the families of those who had lost someone, dying feet away from where I stood. I met a lady who had seen me when I came out of the station. She had been shocked by my appearance, covered in blood and soot and glass. She told me of twelve months of nightmares and guilt because she had peeped inside the station ticket hall and seen people with terrible injuries, and dead bodies, lying there, and she had been haunted by it all year. We hugged. I didn't realise I looked so bad, back then. I thought I was very calm. She said I was too calm, that I was 'like a zombie', shuddering, 'and the whites of your your eyes were black, you looked half-dead. Like you had come out of Hell.' She cried, remembering.

Then we met up with KCU ( Kings Cross United survivor group) people from the rest of the train who had been to Kings Cross earlier, at a hotel near St Pancras church. At 12pm we stood near Tavistock Square away from the cameras and people in silence for 2 minutes. 26 of us held a balloon each, one for each innocent stranger who had died on our train. They flew away into the sky, staying together, until they were tiny specks that could no longer be seen. Tavistock Square is a place of peace, and between Russell Square and Kings Cross. I thought of the victims of all bombs, everywhere, especially those 52 who died a year ago.

At 12.30pm some of the group went to the inter-faith service at St. Pancras. I didn't, because there were cameras there and I am recognisable at the moment. I had been to a beautiful service in St. Ethelredas last night instead which was private, and attended by survivors, including seriously injured, rescuers and bereaved. And yesterday lunchtime, I had been to St. Pancras and heard a concert, and said a prayer for those affected by terrorism.

I stayed in the hotel instead and had lunch and drinks with people from the train who have become dear friends over the last year. It was an emotional afternoon, but mixed with the sadness and guilt and terrible memories was a sense of hope and of new beginnings, and relief that we had made it so far, together.

In the evening we went to Regent's Park where I met some bereaved families and survivors from other sites who I have got to know over the year. As soon as the London Community Gospel Choir began to sing Something inside so strong, I cried. I hid under my hands and hair but everyone was crying, and the cameras were not zooming in on faces in the crowd, so it was ok.

After the beautiful ceremony we laid flowers, and that was the hardest part of the day, walking past members of the public, when I could see so many of my friends were crying. Long lines of people, all thinking of those hurt or killed. J was with me. he held my hand. Tissues were passed up and down the row of survivors.

Then we walked away, walking through the sunlit park as evening fell. There was a tremendous sense of release. We went to a pub and bought each other drinks in the evening sunshine. A normal, jolly Saturday night, Londoners spilling out onto the pavement with pints, looking forward to the weekend.

It was over, now I can walk away from it all, I hope, and look to the future. Thank you for all the messages I found when I came home, a little drunk, hungry and with a lighter heart. Thank you for all the support I have had from friends and strangers over the last 12 months. It means a very great deal.

I will continue to ask, with others for an inquiry into 7/7, because I think it is the right thing to do. I will keep writing, and I am looking forward to a future with my family and husband-to-be, my friends, including new ones I have made.

For the next KCU social meeting we made plans to go dancing.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was thinking of you, and all the others, yesterday. I just hope that everyone can use this as a milestone to help them move onwards.

July 08, 2006 12:40 pm  
Blogger Jo said...

I hope in some way it all helped, just a little at least. Thinking of you.

July 08, 2006 1:09 pm  
Blogger Clare said...

That was a beautiful post Rachel and it made me cry. I am glad you will continue writing and I also read on the BBC website about other survivors and famillies of the victims also calling for a public inquiry.

July 08, 2006 1:54 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its not the done thing to cry at work, so I had to choke it down. Beautiful writing.

July 10, 2006 10:00 am  

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