7/7 London bombing survivor Gill Hicks: 10 years has gone in the blink of an eye but I'll never go back on the Tube

 
Catherine Neilan
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Gill Hicks walks together with Imam Qari Asim, Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner and Rvnd Bertrand Olivier (Source: Greg Sigston/City A.M.)
Gill Hicks hasn't been on the Tube for 10 years to the day. By the time you're reading this, it could be to the minute. Because Hicks was one of hundreds of people for whom, at 8:50am on 7 July 2005, life changed forever.
On that morning she didn't take her usual route to work, and was uncharacteristically late. She forced herself onto the Piccadilly line at King's Cross, heading towards her job as head of curation at the Design Council, near Leicester Square.
Then she heard a click and everything went black. At first she thought she was dead. Then she heard the screams of other people. And, as she said at the tribunal five years later, “strangely, [I] found that comforting for the moments that followed”.
Hicks had been caught in the Russell Square bombing, in which 26 people were killed, half the total fatalities of the day. She lost both her legs in the attack, which she describes as “my spiritual moment”.
It may have happened a decade ago, but to Hicks the memories are still raw.
“I'm a double amputee – you never get used to that. That's something I have to work with and adapt to every day of my life,” she tells City A.M.. “I still can't believe it was 10 years – to me it's just a blink of an eye.
“But it shows me just how precious time is – we have to do everything we can in our lives because, as we can see, a decade can just go by and it feels like a breath of time.”
But while she refuses to go on the Tube, Hicks is equally adamant that the bombers “haven't won at anything”. You need only look at what she has accomplished since – not least setting up her own charity M.A.D for Peace, receiving an MBE, and being named 2015's South Australian of the Year.
This year, she has embarked on a series of physical challenges to raise money and attention for the causes close to her heart – most recently she abseiled down the side of King's College Hospital to raise money for, among others, St Thomas' Hospital, where she was treated after the bomb.
“My personal outlook and everything I've done in the last 10 years has been about unity, building sustainable models of peace. I'm absolutely moving forward every moment.”
It's fitting, then, that while she is back in London – having returned to her native Australia a few years back - she is taking part in the Walk Together initiative, with faith leaders including Imam Qari Asim, Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner and Bertrand Olivier, vicar of All-Hallows-by-the-Tower.
Inspired by the scenes of the day 10 years ago when commuters took to the streets, the campaign is designed to encourage unity between people of different faiths and backgrounds. It's an emotional morning, not least when Hicks is reunited with PC Andrew Maxwell who rescued her from the train that morning 10 years ago, but one that Hicks is fully behind.


Gill Hicks in an emotional reunion with PC Andrew Maxwell, who rescued her on the day (Source: Greg Siston/City A.M.)

“The more we do, the better,” she says. “We have to make sure we are always looking at what we're doing, making sure we are tuning the message to the right set of ears. It's not just about preventing violent extremism, it's always about having a better community life.”
The recent attack in Tunisia casts a long shadow over the 7/7 anniversary, not least because of what Hicks describes as the vulnerability of the sunbathing victims. While the work is ongoing, she remains optimistic about the changes London and its people have already made.
“We learned so much... There hasn't been another - successful – 7 July in 10 years,” she says. “That is a credit to every single person, including those amazing grass roots community leaders who do so much to ensure we are strengthened, unified society... It's about realising that we have far more in common with other people than we have that divides us.”

7/7 bombings: London remembers

Caron Pope, managing partner at law firm Fragoman
"I was working by London Bridge at the time. We heard the distant wail of sirens outside and didnt really think too much of it until some colleagues started arriving in the office saying there were problems on the Tube due to an electrical surge . And then .... the word started going round that there had been explosions and from then on we were all glued to BBC news website watching the story unfold. Of course we started worrying about colleagues who were not in the office or friends and family who we knew were in London and as the mobile phones service were down it was hard to make contact for a while It was hard to believe that so much death and destruction was happening so close to us all .
"It was a very subdued atmosphere in the office that day and most of us headed home as early as we could . The train was eerily quiet on the return journey - in fact that' s what I noticed most in the following weeks . An air of nervousness everywhere ... its a terrible feeling knowing that we are all potential targets and as commuters we were all aware that it could so easily have been us if the bombers had chosen a different route into London.
"My children were quite young at the time and I remember them wanting some kind of explanation from me as to why these awful terrorists had blown up and mutilated people at random . I couldn't explain it then and 10 years on I still can't .
Nicky Edwards, director of policy and public affairs at The City UK
“I was still so very happy that London had won the 2012 Olympic bid, I didn’t mind when an inexplicable traffic jam caused the bus to work to come to a halt. It was a fine morning, so I got off and walked. Arriving at work, I found a colleague standing outside the office looking for people to arrive. It was only when he asked if I was alright that I learned about the bombings.
“That evening a few of us from the office walked back across London Bridge together. Instead of the usual isolated individuals in a crowd of hundreds rushing across the river, people were taking care to see and acknowledge each other. It was a fine evening.”
Sadiq Khan, MP for Tooting
“I can remember all too vividly where I was when word started filtering through that there had been several explosions on London’s public transport network. I was with my staff in our House of Common's office and all of us were in high spirits as we were still digesting the fantastic news from the day before that our magnificent city had been chosen to host the Olympic Games.
“Frantic phone calls were made and messages exchanged with my nearest and dearest. Every time I was able to establish contact with one of them I felt a huge sense of relief. But I knew it could so easily have been my wife and daughters, or my mum or brothers and sister, or their families, killed or injured down there in the dark or riding on the top deck of that Number 30 bus...
"I felt shock at the thought of Londoners killed while aboard public transport – travelling along the very arteries that keep the city’s beating heart alive, that I’ve travelled every day, all my life."
Tessa Jowell, former Olympics minister
“I was in Singapore, celebrating having won the Olympic bid when my private secretary received a call from London to be told that there might have been a terrorist attack on the Tube network.
"Euphoria had given way to disaster, despair, gripping apprehension, unbearable anxiety... The mobile network collapsed under the pressure. So many distressed calls for help, so many plaintive requests for reassurance went unanswered in the void. But then, for the lucky ones, the network was restored and the call came. For some, though, the call did not come and never will. For some the connection will never be restored.”

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