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London terror attack

A survivor's story

Hazel Choules Hazel Choules, of Hatfield, was travelling on the Picadilly Line of the London Underground when a terrorist bomb exploded on Thursday, July 7. This is her personal account of the incident.

I just felt I wanted to write my experience down and hopefully it will make sense of a very horrific day that started out as normal but ended up a train journey for some, of no return.

I have been one of the lucky ones, I am alive and not harmed physically in any way. The shock and horrific scenes I witnessed in the tunnel and outside will stay with me forever. The fear I was going to die in a dirty smoke filled underground train has had an effect, I have been unable to speak correctly since it happened, my speech hopefully will return to normal, it is just shock. It is more stressful for the people I love and know to listen to then for myself as I am in no pain, it sounds and appears that I am but I count my blessings that I am alive. I could have died along with so many who have, my heart goes out to all of the innocent victims and their families, it leaves you feeling a tremendous guilt that you walked away in one piece.

Everyone who walked away from the incidents on the underground trains and bus will be mentally scared forever and I am sure no one will ever forget the 7 of 7 2005.

I boarded the Piccadilly Line train at Finsbury Park as I have done for the last seven years heading to Holborn where I work for the BOA at the Royal College of Surgeons. The train was full and the Piccadilly Line was experiencing delays, I was running late for work, we pulled into King’s Cross I was on the right side of the carriage with my back to everyone sitting down, pushed up against the side door and the glass where the seats were. I always boarded the same carriage and stood in the same place as the windows for ventilation are here and it was open so a gentle breeze although warm came through.

We pulled out of King’s Cross Station and I had my eyes shut just waiting for the door I was pushed up against to open at Russell Square so I could take in some fresh air, I have always felt uneasy on the underground train because of the amount of people all squeezed into such a small space.

Suddenly there was a loud whoosh, I opened my eyes, smoke and soot shot through the window and filled the carriage it was dark the carriage came to a stop with a short sound of grinding metal we had come off the track and the emergency light may of came on at this moment, I am unsure as the smoke and dust made it so dark but when someone in the carriage shut the window there was a enough light to see that everyone immediately around me was covered in all the smoke and dust which had blown so fast through the carriage.

For a split second there was a silence and then panic, I really felt I was going to die just waiting for fire after the smoke, a lot of people in our carriage said their thoughts out loud "There is going to be a fire", people were frightened, I being one of them, I thought about my family and my children.

A gentleman who was pressed up against the door next to me was so calm and kind he spoke to everyone and said not to panic the people above knew the train had stopped in the tunnel. Everyone immediately near me thought the train had either crashed or just derailed, no one mentioned thoughts of a bomb. People were shouting "smash the windows" others were shouting not to as the smoke and dust would just pour back in, it was so hard to breath the smoke and dust was stinging everyone’s eyes, it was hard to see and breath, I had one packet of paper tissues I gave them to everyone I could to put over their mouths or to wipe their eyes.

It was so unreal, there was screaming coming from the carriages in front and windows were being smashed, this made people sob in our carriage we were so frightened, a few people fainted, others around me were calm, reassuring people that we would be rescued and nothing else was going to happen. In order to find out if people in the carriage behind us were OK the brave people by the window opened it and spoke to the next carriage who informed us that we would be rescued shortly help was on its way, messages were being passed through the train.

I think it must have been about 30 minutes later an emergency light went on in the tunnel immediately outside our carriage, just again for a few seconds panic set in with everyone, panic to get off the train but the men in our carriage especially the one pressed up against the door next to me helped the women through the middle doors to the next carriage where the rescuers helped us down on to the track of the dark smoke filled tunnel.

People helped one another through the dark tunnel, we had to walk single file as the space in the tunnel was very narrow, the rescue workers were so calm and kind, people were gently crying through relief, we were going to walk away from this physically unharmed, people were recording the events on their mobile phones, no one thought it had been a bomb.

The line of people came to a standstill it was extremely dark and smoke still filled the tunnel but as my eyes became accustomed to the emergency lighting I could see what appeared to be a pile of rags on the track just a few feet from me at the side of the train, I realised that it was a body but the person’s legs were missing, it was not making any sense in my mind. A man who was part of the rescue team was standing near to the body and calming everyone, I could not believe what I was seeing I had to ask him if it was a body, he replied that sadly it was but not to say anything or it would start a panic in the tunnel, a door which was buckled lay opposite the body, I looked back, I wanted to go back and cover the body with my coat, so many thoughts were running through my head even then I still did not think the train had been blown up by a bomb.

I wanted to scream out loud, but I just found myself sobbing walking through a dark dirty tunnel, I just could not believe that there was a body lying in the tunnel on the Piccadilly Line I was just going to work along with everyone else on the train.

When we reached the King's Cross Platform the rescue works lifted everyone up on to the platform. There had been another train held on a different line in King's Cross underground and the people were emerging from the other side clean and tidy it was rather a bizarre situation, we were all covered in smoke, dirt and debris from the explosion all going up the escalator together.

When we reached the top the emergency services were waiting and handing out water to everyone. The people with truly awful injuries were being brought up and everywhere you looked people were in a state of shock, injured or covered in blood with horrendous injuries. I phoned my work and spoke to a colleague, even now I cannot remember what I said, It would not have made sense. I phoned my husband and asked him to come and get me, he was in Watford and I did not make a lot of sense to him either. My husband, Gary, was telling me that there had been a crash of some kind at Aldgate but I was shouting no, it is King's Cross Station.

I said I would meet him at the college, I would start making my way, my husband left his job and set off straight away. The bomb on the bus in Tavistock Square had just exploded the police were not allowing anyone to head in that direction, by this time I was so distressed, the police said I was to go to hospital, I was taken to the London Hospital on one of the red buses. Everyone on the bus I was on spoke to one another to check they were alright, even people who were not on the train helped as much as they could.

Everyone was trying to get through on their mobiles but the signals had been overloaded it was not until I was on the bus that we learned it had been a bomb and explosions had gone off in different areas of London.

When I arrived at the London Hospital I helped a young lady who had a very bad cut to her face and who was very much in a state of shock, she was covered in blood, it was not her own, we cuddled each other and spoke of what we had seen. The hospital was so busy I saw people helping with the emergency situation who I had worked for, I did not have a scratch and did not want to overload what was already a really overwhelmed situation. I phoned my husband who had been waiting at the college for me and still I could not get through so I left a message on his voice mail to please came and get me from the London Hospital, I just wanted to get away from it all and try to make things normal again. I phoned the relatives of the young lady who I had helped into the hospital and assured them she was safe and being looked after at the London Hospital.

I phoned my husband again and this time I spoke to him, the roads around the London Hospital were all shut because of the emergencies services having to have immediate access to the hospital, I said I would walk along the Whitechapel Road, I then ran out of change. I walked past the people at the gate of the A&E entrance, press and the media were all grouped around this was so unreal. I crossed the road to ask the London Transport helpers where I should go in order that my husband could get to me, they too were so kind, they gave me change so I could keep calling Gary to let him know where I was, all the time it was like being in a dream covered from head to foot in black smoke and soot, my eyes were sore my head was thumping. People just looked as me as I walked down the road. My husband reached me at last and he took me straight to the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, the staff there were marvellous, just so lovely I cannot thank them enough.

I really want to thank the emergencies services at King’s Cross and all the trauma staff at the London Hospital who were so organised and calm. The A&E nursing staff who are based at the QE II in Welwyn Garden City, they were so lovely and kind they have assured me that my speech will eventually return to normal it is just shock. I especially thank my husband Gary it took him six hours to drive all around London to get to me, I am one of the lucky ones and my heart goes out to everyone who was not like me, the injured and especially those who have lost their lives for what! Just going about their everyday lives trying to get to work, none of this will ever make sense.

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