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.
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 Pistorius: Career in pictures
Oscar Pistorius: Career in pictures
1/34 Oscar Pistorius in Greece
Oscar Pistorius wins the 200m T44 for Men during the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Athens, 2004
2/34 Oscar Pistorius in Greece
Oscar Pistorius at the Olympic Stadium in Athens, 2004
3/34 Oscar Pistorius in Manchester
Oscar Pistorius celebrates winning his second gold medal during the VISA Paralympic World Cup Athletics at the Sport City Stadium in Manchester, 2006
4/34 Oscar Pistorius in Manchester
Oscar Pistorius shows his gold medal after winning the T44 200 m for men at the Visa Paralympic world cup at the Manchester Regional Arena, 2007
5/34 Oscar Pistorius competes in race
Oscar Pistorius competing in the men's 400m race B, 2007
6/34 Oscar Pistorius in Rome
Oscar Pistorius settles in the blocks before winning the Mens 400m 'B' race during the IAAF Golden Gala at The Olympic Stadium in Rome, 2007
7/34 Oscar Pistorius in Rome
Oscar Pistorius poses during the broadcast 'Piazza grande' on Italian TV state channel 'Rai 1' in Rome, 2008
8/34 Oscar Pistorius in St.Petersburg
(L to R) Bryan Habana, Cuba Gooding Jr and Oscar Pistorius during the Laureus welcome reception at Gimnazya in St.Petersburg, 2008
9/34 Oscar Pistorius arrives at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne
Oscar Pistorius arrives at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne to appeal his case on the second day of his hearing as he was told by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) that he could not compete in their events because the artificial legs he uses gives him an unfair advantage, 2008
10/34 Oscar Pistorius runs during a training session
Oscar Pistorius runs during a training session on the track of Emmeloord, 2008
11/34 Oscar Pistorius in Germany
Oscar Pistorius compete during the 400 meter race at the German disabled athletics championships in Berlin, 2008
12/34 Oscar Pistorius in Italy
Oscar Pistorius of South Africa relaxes prior to the 400m race in his quest to make the Olympic qualifying time of 45.55 during the Notturna di Milano International Athletics Meeting at the Arena Gianni Brera in Milan, 2008
13/34 Oscar Pistorius in China
Oscar Pistorius speaks at a press conference for the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games in Beijing, 2008
14/34 Oscar Pistorius in China
Oscar Pistorius of South Africa celebrates after winning the gold medal in the Men's 100m T44 Final Athletics event at the National Stadium during day three of the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing, 2008
15/34 Oscar Pistorius in China
Oscar Pistorious (L) leads Heros Marai (C) of Italy and Christoph Bausch (R) of Switzerland in the heats of the men's 100 metre T44 classification race at the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games in Beijing, 2008
16/34 Oscar Pistorius and Nelson Mandela in South Africa
Oscar Pistorius and former South African President, Nelson Mandela in South Africa, 2009
17/34 Oscar Pistorius in Norway
Oscar Pistorius looks on prior to the 400m B-final during the IAAF Golden League Bislett Games in Oslo, 2009
18/34 Oscar Pistorius in London
Oscar Pistorius reacts after winning the men's 400 metres T44 final race with a new world record time of 47.04 sec during the Diamond League athletics meeting at Crystal Palace in London, 2010
19/34 Oscar Pistorius in New Zealand
Oscar Pistorius of South Africa celebrates receiving his gold medal after winning the Men's 200m T44 final during day three of the IPC Athletics Championships at QE II Park in Christchurch, New Zealand, 2011
20/34 Oscar Pistorius in New Zealand
(L-R) Arnu Fourie, Henry Roos, Oscar Pistorius and Mike Samkelo Radebe of South Africa celebrate after winning the Men's 4x100m Relay T42-46 final during day eight of the IPC Athletics Championships at QE II Park in Christchurch, New Zealand, 2011
21/34 Oscar Pistorius in New Zealand
Oscar Pistorius of South Africa poses with his medals during day eight of the IPC Athletics Championships at QE II Park in Christchurch, New Zealand, 2011
22/34 Oscar Pistorius in South Africa
Oscar Pistorius in action during the 400m during day 5 of The Nedbank National Championships for the Physically Disabled from Olympia Park Stadium in Rustenburg, 2011
23/34 Oscar Pistorius in Czech Republic
Oscar Pistorius warms up before the men's 400m event at the Zlata Tretra (Golden Spike) athletics meeting in the eastern Czech city of Ostrava, 2011
24/34 Oscar Pistorius in New York
Oscar Pistorius attends the Eva Mendes launch of her new campaign for Angel by Thierry Mugler at IAC Building in New York, 2011
25/34 Oscar Pistorius in South Korea
Oscar Pistorius of South Africa speaks with Olympic gold medalist Michael Johnson of the United States during a media gathering at the Novatel Hotel prior to the 13th IAAF World Athletics Championships Daegu 2011 in Daegu, South Korea, 2011
26/34 Oscar Pistorius in South Korea
Oscar Pistorius prepares to settle into the blocks to compete in the men's 400 metres heats at the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championships in Daegu, 2011
27/34 Oscar Pistorius in London
South African sprint runner known as 'Blade Runner' Oscar Pistorius (C) poses for photographers with Paralympians ahead of the international Paralympic Day in central London, 2011
28/34 Oscar Pistorius in London
Oscar Pistorius poses in the press room with his Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability trophy at the 2012 Laureus World Sports Awards at Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in London, 2012
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Oscar Pistorius of South Africa competes in the Men's 400m Round 1 heat on Day 8 of the 2012 London Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in London, 2012
30/34 Oscar Pistorius receives his honorary doctorate
Oscar Pistorius holds his scroll after receiving his honorary doctorate from Strathclyde University in the Barony Hall in Glasgow, 2012
31/34 Oscar Pistorius with his girlfriend
Oscar Pistorius posing next to his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at Melrose Arch in Johannesburg, 2013
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Oscar Pistorius hides his face in his hands in the court room during his hearing on charge of murdering his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at the Magistrate Court in Pretoria, 2013
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Oscar Pistorius stands in the Magistrate Court in Pretoria after appearing for the first time since being freed on bail over the Valentine's Day killing of his model girlfriend, 2013
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Oscar Pistorius appeared on charges of murdering his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, 2013
“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.”Reuse content