Sunday, July 05, 2009


On the 7th July 2005 at around 9am I was driving with my colleague to Suffolk to film at somebody's house. We were listening to the radio in the van and at 9.30am there was breaking news that four bombs had exploded around London. I immediately thought of my family who didn't know where I was, and let them all know I was ok. My colleague's sister was working near a London tube station that suffered a bombing, and was soon on the phone with her to see if she was fine.

Today I filmed an interview with one woman who was in a carriage near to one which was blown up by a terrorist bomber on the northern line. She said her life is clearly defined as a before and after July 7 08.50. It was fascinating. Firstly because of her account of what happened. Secondly, how she coped with the trauma.

She was on her way to work reading the newspaper. She said she remembered a big expolsion, and she felt as if someone had pushed her really hard on the shoulder. The air became incredibly thick. Glass shattered everywhere and all the shards glimmered for a split second as they flew through the air. She covered her face with the newspaper. Then a panel in the floor disappeared and she could see the moving parts of the engine below. The train was still moving but the engine had stopped working. There was a moment of silence, then everyone started screaming. She tried to wipe the heavy grime off her face with her jacket, but her jacket was covered in it too so she used her hands. Everyone saw two men trying to kick the end door down to get out, and when it came off everyone hurried out the door. She remembers when she got out she saw a man lying on the floor outside the opposite carriage and wanting to help him; he had no legs and was screaming in pain. One of his legs was above the carriage suspended on a cable. She stood still and wanted to help him, but wasn't sure if she'd be in the way. She remembered a clear moment of absolute indecision. As she stood there staring someone else ran to his aid, and another lady told her to keep moving. They walked by the carriage that the bomb went off in and saw some people looking through the door and then quickly moving on, crying. She knew she shouldn't have, but she couldn't help looking in. There were bits of bodies and blood everywhere. She could see no survivors.

Days afterwards she had trouble dealing with mundane things in real life. She knew she should put her seatbelt on in the car, but she had forgotten how. She knew she needed to make a phone call, but she forgot how to use the phone. She went back to work after a couple of weeks and when a colleague asked her to do a quality control report she couldn't understand its relevance at all. Why was it important? At first she thought that no-one understood her. She was suffering post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. She subsequently received different types of therapy to recognize the symptoms, and often met up with fellow survivors that were on the same carriage. At first she would have frequent lapses of sadness, but the more time goes by the less it occurs.

I think what moved me most was how she now looks at life. To start with, she didn't want this man that detonated the bomb on his chest in the carriage to influence her life. Why should I stop working, stop seeing my friends because of this man? But she didn't say 'this man', she said his name. That shocked me. She said Sidique Kahn and to me it almost sounded as if she was swearing. What inner courage she must have to name the man casually mid sentence that caused her and people around her such incredible harm.

Her proirities changed. She said she values her family and friends even more now. She felt guilty that she had put them through the trauma of her possible death. She avoids people she considers nasty without hesitation. In life we experience moments of happiness, with our children, birdsong, sunsets. Before 7th July she had never appreciated these things as much. Now she cherishes them. As if all happy moments have more meaning. That's what I found most inspiring. She had a Buddha-like inner calm which I found bewitching. As if she knew how to appreciate life a little more than you or I. So on the train on the way home I found a text my cousin in Spain had sent me days before my first born arrived, over four years ago now, and smiled at how sweet it was. And I called my cousin there and then just to hear her voice.