7/7 bombings 10 years on: Martine Wright lost both legs in the attack – she explains how her experience since shows 'anything is possible'

Wright competed for Team GB at the London 2012 Paralympics

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Ten years ago Martine Wright, in bright white new trainers, jumped on an eastbound Circle Line train at Moorgate, with a slight hangover, a hastily-grabbed copy of Metro and the certainty she was running late for work. She found a seat in the morning rush-hour crush and opened the newspaper with a sigh of relief to read about London’s successful bid for the 2012 Olympics, announced the day before. She paid no heed to her fellow passengers.

At 8.49am, one of those passengers detonated a suicide bomb that would kill seven people in the carriage, part of a wider attack on London claiming 52 lives that became known as the 7/7 bombings. It was the worst terrorist incident in the UK since a plane exploded over Lockerbie in 1988.

In the darkness, smoke and amid the screaming, she could dimly make out one of her white trainers, now covered in red, suspended a long way above her head amid twisted metal. It made no sense at the time. Later she would understand it contained her foot. Another victim’s foot was embedded in her own thigh. She was the last survivor to be rescued from the carriage and nearly three-quarters of her blood had drained away by the time the fire brigade cut her free. Her life was saved by an off-duty policewoman, Liz Kenworthy, who found a belt to use as a tourniquet.

Wright held on to it for dear life. “I remember thinking, this is like John Wayne in one of those old westerns, fixing himself up when he’s been shot in the leg.” The doctors at the Royal London Hospital would later say that the tourniquet definitely saved her life, but both legs had to be amputated above the knee.

30-Martine-Wright-Reuters.jpg
Martine Wright competed as part of Great Britain’s sitting volleyball team at the Paralympic Games in 2012 (Reuters)

A decade on, with the anniversary of 7/7 looming, she says an extraordinary thing. “In some ways it was the best thing that ever happened to me. No, I can’t say ‘best’ thing. That’s not quite right. It was the most life-changing thing that has had such profound and positive effects. It may sound absolutely mad to say that. But look at this house, Oscar my son, Nick my husband, my whole family, being able to stand in the sun listening to the birds. I truly, truly believe that good can come out of bad.

“People ask me if I would turn the clock back. Part of me says: ‘Yeah, it would be nice to have my legs back’. But my life now is so amazing. I’ve had the opportunity to do so much, meet so many people. I don’t think I would turn that clock back if I had the chance.”

She can recite the highlights, no problem. Masses of them. “Getting married and walking down the aisle in prosthetic legs.” Then falling over three times at the reception, but that just made her laugh. “Having Oscar – not necessarily on that particular day given that it took 16 hours and I was completely knackered. And then the huge, huge highlight of the Paralympics [where she was part of Great Britain’s sitting volleyball team, pictured left]. That healed me in a way that nothing else could have done.

“It gave meaning to what happened. It gave me huge strength and I’ve still got it. You know, I believe that maybe I could never have stopped what happened. The accident, Liz saving me, it was always meant to be. I mean, I lost 80 per cent of my blood. How can you lose 80 per cent of your blood, in a Tube, not be rescued for an hour and still be saved?

“The Paralympics were absolutely huge. They carved out who I am now. Which is talking. I’m paid to talk, which isn’t too bad for someone they called ‘Mighty Mouth’ at school.

“I’ve met the Queen and Prince Philip at a Buckingham Palace Garden party, although I remember Princess Eugenie best. Everyone else asked me politely about the Paralympics. She just stared at my feet – in gold Converse sneakers – and said: ‘Oh my God, where did you get those trainers from. They’re amazing!’ "

This year a film of her life, starring Anna Maxwell Martin, is being made for release just before the Paralympics in August 2016. It may also feature a cameo role by the film’s inspiration. “I definitely want to do a Hitchcock and be in it somewhere,” she said. She is working on her autobiography also due out next year, if she can find a publisher.

The hard times, she refuses to dwell on. “I get phantom pains in my legs that aren’t there, I used to have hallucinations of smoke and the sound of helicopters in my ears, but no flashbacks or nightmares. When did it get normal? I don’t know really. It just gradually happened. I can still be upset about things, but that’s normal too.

 

“Oscar’s nearly six now and he came back from school with a Mother’s Day card for me. It was the first time he’d depicted me in a wheelchair. ‘Who’s that?’ I asked. ‘That’s you,’ he said, which made me a bit teary. But then he said: ‘I’m lucky, aren’t I. Sometimes you’re in a wheelchair and sometimes you’re on your robot legs AND you were in the Paralympics. I’m lucky to have you as my Mum.

“He calls the Union Jack ‘Mummy’s flag’. I have to tell him sometimes that I think a few other people can borrow it too. And I am also trying to let him know, gradually, what happened 10 years ago. When he was younger we just told him that my legs got squashed on a train. Now I’m saying that it was a bad man on a Tube and he had a bomb. But you know kids. Oscar says: ‘Yeah, yeah’ and forgets. As for me, I don’t give any thought to the perpetrators that day. I’m just not carrying that anger round with me.”

She certainly doesn’t. She appeared at Wembley Arena this year, in front of an audience of 12,000 people who’d just applauded the actress and singer Jennifer Hudson off the stage at a Save The Children event. “I thought: ‘I’ve only got one opportunity to do this in my life, so I’ll go for it. I took a deep breath and yelled: ‘HALLO WEMBLEEEEEY!’ They loved it.

“I’ve had my days of saying ‘why me?’, believe me. But with the help of my incredible family and friends, I’ve dealt with it. I’ve got new legs, not no legs. Anything is possible.”

Comments