They say time heals all wounds, but I am not so sure.I believe that…
Time teaches you ways to live with those wounds.
When I look back over the last seven and a half years, one of the most difficult parts was certainly the Inquests at which I was called as a witness.
I found this such a difficult process, which on further reflection was certainly clouded by something my Dad once said to me as a teenager. He had said that even if I, or my brother or sister were murdered, he would not go to our inquest.
My Dad had to attend the inquest of his Dad, my Granddad, when I was only small; I was six when he died. My Granddad was a remarkable human being. He was injured when my Dad was only a toddler, an accident which left him paralysed and Quadriplegic. He passed away over 26 years later when I was six. My amazing Gran, a trained nurse, nursed him all that time, turning him, feeding him, bathing him, carrying him to the bathroom; my Gran did EVERYTHING for him with absolute love and devotion. Apart from the support of family members, she did this all on her own with no support.
Now there’s a woman, and there’s love.
My Gran was utterly selfless in her devotion to my Granddad. She nursed him for 26 long years, and waited an even longer 33 years to be reunited with her beloved Tommy.
This family history coloured my view of inquests; my Granddad had to have an inquest as he died in hospital after having his leg amputated as it had started to turn to gangrene (26 years of being a quadriplegic without getting gangrene is testament to the care and devotion my Granddad received from my Gran).
My Dad had told me it was unbearable to hear his Dad being spoken of like a piece of meat, and that was the reason he had said he would never go to another, not even if it was for one of his children. So when I was called as a witness to the July 7th Inquests, I was terrified of the entire process. I was terrified of being part of something which I believed would hurt the families the way my Dad had been hurt all those years ago, at Granddads’ inquest.
My Gran and Granddads’ story may have given me a fear of inquests, but it also coloured my experience, recovery and gratitude after July 7th too. I knew that no matter what my injuries had been, even if I had suffered terrible paralysis or loss of limb like my granddad had, I know my family would have been just as grateful to have me home, and would have been just as devoted in their care and love for me as they had my Granddad.
I am also told I inherited my Granddads’ sense of humour, quite a dark and quirky sense of humour at times. I have some memories of him, mainly a head on a pillow, in a big bed. They are all happy memories of me and my cousins climbing on the bed with him, jumping and trampolining around him in the bed. Birthday cards would be (at his insistence) hidden underneath his pillow, and so we would be called to jump on the bed around him and play find the birthday card. There was always a lot of laughter in his room.
I found the build-up to the inquests, and the day I had to attend very difficult. Being injured in Tavistock Square, our inquest followed the three from the tube, and so I had to face three or four months of it being covered on the news every day. The news coverage was relentless, and due to Tavistock Square being the only attack above ground, even when the tube inquests were being reported, this was done mainly with a photograph of the bus in Tavistock Square featuring in the report. Day after day, we were once more exposed to the picture of the bus. It was only after the inquests, when the constant bombardment of the image had ceased, did I start to realise how relentlessly the image of that bus had been used.
I had not expected that I would learn any new ‘facts’ about that day, but I did, and that was also difficult. To prepare, I took time off work, went back to my psychologist. My psychologist prepared me the best he could, and helped me understand what I feared most about the process. I feared hurting the families who had been hurt the most. I feared being one of the people who had to hurt them, by telling them what it was like that day. I wanted to protect them from any more hurt. They had been through too much already.
Eventually, I received the letter telling me what day I would be called. I would be called on the first day, immediately after the Family Tributes had been read. It felt like even more of a burden. I had read each of the Family Tributes from the other three sites. Every single one of them had brought me to tears, had devastated me with their honesty and complete loss of each of the wonderful people who sadly died that day, and the pain of their families and friends. They had all been beautifully written and prepared, but feeling their pain, even for a few minutes had almost been too much for me to bear.
However, the timing of my evidence, actually gave me strength rather than the additional burden I had expected. A couple of years earlier, had met a wonderful lady who had lost her sister on the bus, and we had become friends. My friend was the first bereaved family member I had the courage to have a proper conversation with, and when we met we both felt a special bond. I have the greatest respect for her and the way she has coped with the loss of her beautiful sister.
The timing of my evidence meant we could face the day together. Talking to my friend as we prepared for ‘our day at court’ I started to realise just how much she needed to hear the answers, my answers and the answers from everyone else involved. She and her family needed to know every last detail, however painful.
Years before I met my friend, I had spoken to my friends mum on the phone, after she had sent a message to survivors. She had asked if there were any survivors who had been sat near the back of the bus, and had been knocked unconscious. I knew that wasn’t her real question. It was about 2 years after the attacks, and I knew what her real question was. I had read her message, and had thought ‘what if that was what had kept my mum awake every night for 2 years’ I had known, that if it was my mum, I’d have wanted someone to try and answer her question, her real question, and so I had called her.
I started to realise that she absolutely deserved to know the truth about everything that day.
I started to realise she needed those answers to help her cope, to help her, not to heal, but to learn to live with her wounds, her loss.
When the day came, we spent the morning in court together, my friend, my sister and me. I had checked whether my friend would mind my sister being there, at the inquest of my friends’ sister. It seemed cruel, but I needed someone with me to travel to London. She had told me not to be silly, just as I knew she would, but I had to ask.
My friend read the most beautiful tribute to her sister, just as I knew she would. She chose to read the tribute herself, just as I knew she would. Her love for her sister filled the court room, and the loss of her sister seemed to drain the oxygen from the room.
As she sat back down next to me, I squeezed her hand and held her tight.
After a short beak it was my turn.
As I took my seat, I looked over to see that my friend and sister were sat together holding hands, it gave me such comfort and strength, to see them together, supporting one another.
My evidence took long over an hour, it was tough, it was exhausting, however afraid I was of hurting my friend or the other families, I could look over and see how much my friend needed me to go on, to tell the story of what had happened, to give her the answers she had waited a long 5 years to hear. She should not have had to wait 5 years to hear those answers.
I finally understood the purpose of the inquest, and it’s not that old cliché ‘closure’.
Closure doesn’t exist, it’s a myth.
But only when you finally understand the truth, are you able to learn to live with the wounds, and the loss, and the ‘why?’
Time may not be a healer, but the truth they say will set you free.
The truth, and time helps you learn to live with the wounds.
This blog is dedicated to all those familiy members who have to find the strength in their devastation to keep asking the questions that need to be answered, no matter how long it takes.