Today is the first anniversary of the London Bombings. As I blogged a year ago I was on one of the trains that was bombed, and being involved with this event has unsurprisingly had quite an effect on me and my family.
For the first few months, I tried to put the horrible things I had seen, and the fact that I had been so close to being killed or seriously injured, out of my mind as much as possible. I didn’t have nightmares or panic attacks, and I carried on pretty much as normal. I did start using the Underground again, but living in central London allowed me to use busses, or walk, much more than I had done previously. Throughout the rest of my time living in London I did go somewhat out of my way to avoid the Tube.
In November I was visiting New York and found myself on a Subway train that was stuck in a station, and the doors didn’t open. I started to feel uncomfortable, and then after a couple of minutes the doors opened and I could get off of the train. Almost immediately I started to shake violently, and felt I was going to be sick – I was having a panic attack. The feeling lasted about 5 minutes and then gradually faded, but it made me realise that I had been effected by my experiences that summer’s day in July.
I didn’t really know what to do about it though, but I did look up the London Recovers website setup by Peter Zimonjic (thanks Peter!). One of the things that came out of that was groups of survivors from each of the trains had started arranging informal self-help meetings. I went along to one of the Aldgate meetings in January and found it very useful. One feeling I had had was that I was alone – my family and friends were extremely supportive, but I didn’t feel able to share completely my experiences with people I cared about. Furthermore I had so many unanswered questions about that day. Meeting up with some of the other people on the train allowed me to talk about stuff I didn’t want to share with anyone else, and also allowed me to get a better picture in my mind of what had happened.
One particularly interesting thing I learned that day was that the ‘4 month delay’ feeling I had had was very typical. I talked to one gentleman who had actually been physically injured by the blast. For the first 4 months he had felt euphoric with the relief of being alive, but then suddenly one day his emotions had crashed. When I spoke to him in January he was getting better, but still was massively emotionally effected by his experiences.
After January, life didn’t really lend itself to doing anything more than that one meeting with the travelling I was doing. I continued to feel uncomfortable travelling on the tube, I was noticeably ‘hyper-sensitive’ to loud noises, and got very upset when I heard helicopters (due to all the choppers circling around in London after the bombs went off.) These are all classic symptoms of post-traumatic stress (PTSD), as I have since learned.
In April though I moved to New York, and one of the things a very good friend of mine made me do when getting here was to go to see a therapist – New York having suffered its own tragic events of 9/11 has a significant number of people who can help with PTSD. I’m really glad to have done this, its helped me look analytically at my feelings and thoughts. I’m now pretty much fine with the New York subway (which I use every day) and I noticed the other day that helicopters no longer seem the carriers of evil I was associating them with previously.
Today itself though has obviously been hard. I managed to take the Subway this morning (despite originally planning on walking) and it was harder than normal. A smell of burning in the office later in the morning made me pretty anxious, but it soon passed. I know today has been hard for my family too – they know how close they were to losing me last year.
Looking forward, I know that I will never forget my experience and it will have an effect on me for the rest of my life, but I know that I’m dealing with it a lot better than I did last year.
My only frustration is that we still don’t really know what happened. I know these things take time, but part of me feels there should be more publically available information to explain how and why the 4 bombers did what they did.
But to finish on a positive note, I’m incredibally pleased that in a lot of ways London didn’t change because of last year. It continues to be a thriving multi-cultural centre of the world. I hope in the years to come that Londoners remember July 7th, but as much as they can that they can live their lives as though it never happened.