Looking for peace after the London bombings
“THE woman who got on to the train at King’s Cross was not the same person who climbed out of the wreckage at Edgware Road – and never will be.” Jacqui Putnam from Huntingdon was on one of the three tube trains blown up on 7/7.
“THE woman who got on to the train at King’s Cross was not the same person who climbed out of the wreckage at Edgware Road – and never will be.”
Jacqui Putnam from Huntingdon was on one of the three tube trains blown up on 7/7.
She was in the carriage next to the one where seven people died, including the bomber. She remembers the explosion then hearing “terrible screams”.
For the rest of us, it is five years since that happened. Ask Jacqui how long ago it is and she says: “A year, maybe eight months.”
She spoke to The Hunts Post because a charity she volunteers for, Survivors for Peace, is up for an award. The National Lottery runs awards for the educational projects it funds, offering them further recognition.
The programme was set up by the Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace in Warrington, founded in memory of Tim, aged 12, and Johnathan, aged three, both killed by an IRA bomb in Warrington in March 1993.
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The charity has since helped to rebuild other shattered lives, including those of soldiers returned from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Jacqui says: “When I had flashbacks I thought I was still trapped in the train and just imagining that I had got out. You can’t tell which is the reality.”
She received specialist treatment at the NHS trauma centre at Barts Hospital in London. “I had weekly sessions over two years. They saved my life.
“The therapist would ask me to describe what had happened. When I got emotional, I would stop, that way he got to know my hotspots.
“He said to me: ‘This question might seem odd but just go with it: When did it happen?’ The first time he asked me, I said ‘three days ago’, the second time, I said ‘last week’. That was seven months after the bomb. That is it, you are stuck at the time it happened. He said to me ‘I am never going to get you further than 10 years on, no matter how long you live.’ I said that’s fine by me.”
Jacqui, 59, mother of two daughters, Caitlin and Tamsin, and grandmother, is a systems analyst. On July 7, 2005, she was working for the Prudential in Reading.
“I was getting the tube to Paddington. I remember people running down the stairs to jump on the train at the last second. I heard one man running and I found out much later that he had survived, I couldn’t get those running footsteps out of my head. As the tube went into the tunnel, the bomb exploded.”
She knew immediately that it was an explosion. “It sounded like a firework, there was a flash and a sound of a sharp crack in the flash. I could see all the glass in the air as if it had been shot from a gun. The force burst along the tunnel. I was reading the paper and I got pushed along the seat. I thought this is bad
“Then everything went black, there was smoke and I couldn’t breathe and then terrible screaming, coming from the next carriage.
“I couldn’t function. It was really horrible, people needing help and not being able to do anything. There was a chap who looked as if a bucket of blood had been poured over his head. I said are you alright and he said yes, I’m fine, I’m fine. I thought, I know you have to elevate a bleed but it’s on his head and he’s taller than me.”
When they were rescued she saw the bombed carriage. She won’t say what she saw except: “Nobody alive”.
“When we got out to the entrance I collapsed against the wall, my legs wouldn’t work, I just knelt down there for a while. I couldn’t figure out how to work my phone, I looked at it and none of it made sense. I kept hitting buttons at random. I started paging down and I thought I’ll know the name when I see it.”
She phoned her daughter Caitlin, then a pupil at St Ivo School. “I said something horrible has happened but I need to tell you that I am OK. I don’t think she understood. When she got to school, they called an assembly and told everyone what had happened and she said ‘Oh my God, my mum!’”
They were led out of the station to a branch of Marks & Spencer. “The staff were so good, wonderful. The store was open for business and there were all these walking, wounded, dazed people covered in soot and mud and blood walking in. They dished out bottled water to us, all these smartly dressed sales people and people from the offices who came down to make sure we were all right. Then there was a briefcase they couldn’t identify so we were evacuated to the Hotel Metropole. I went to the Ladies to look in the mirror and I didn’t recognise myself, I was covered in soot and blood.”
Jacqui had been injured by the blast. There was glass in her scalp, she had concussion and the force of the impact broke one of her teeth. But these physical injuries she dismisses as “no problem”. “I thought if this is what it has done to my tooth, what has it done to my brain?”
Jacqui returned to work after a week. “People tried to persuade me not to but I knew if I didn’t get back on a train, I wouldn’t be able to function. I had to start fighting those demons as soon as I could.”
Now, Jacqui speaks at Survivors for Peace meetings. “There was a young chap in his early 20s who had lost a leg in Afghanistan. He had been home two years and he was suffering terribly and he had had no treatment. This was his first visit to the Peace Centre. He approached me afterwards and said that all the things I had described he was experiencing. My talking about it had helped him – just as others talking about their experiences had helped me.”
The bombs, on three tube trains and one double-decker bus, killed 52 people and injured 700.
How different is the woman who climbed out of the wreckage from the one who had boarded the tube?
“Now I don’t feel terribly safe anywhere. The last thing I expected that day was to enter a war zone, to be in some horror scene from Hell. If I am sitting in a cafe or restaurant or driving, I am so much more aware of how easy it is to die.
“I look around me and see what people are carrying but what can I do? I can’t stop other people getting on trains – I would seem like a mad woman.
“You carry this sadness with you. It’s not overwhelming but it’s always there. You have to hide it from everybody, except other survivors because they have it, too. They understand and the people at the Peace Centre understand.
“I have forged some lifelong, wonderful friendships. It’s a terrible way to meet people. I am glad that I met them but I am not glad how.”