I Survived The 7/7 Bombings On The London Underground
Martyn Meadows, 58, tells BuzzFeed how it felt to survive the terrorist attacks 10 years ago.
It had been raining that day, and even though I never usually carried an umbrella, I had this urge to go back to the car for one. It was only a short walk from Covent Garden tube station to Somerset House where I was working, so I probably didn’t need it.
As I was sitting on the train into King's Cross from Peterborough, where I live, I just kept thinking, “Why have I brought this stupid big gentleman’s umbrella? This is going to maim a few people on the tube.”
As I got down to the underground, I could see that the Piccadilly line platform was even busier than usual. I would always get on the front carriage so that I’d be by the door at Covent Garden. Even if it was crowded I’d usually barge my way through. That day I didn’t. I don’t know if because it was so busy – there were two blokes with rucksacks, standing right in my spot – but I got on about two carriages down instead. It felt a bit weird.
Any other day I would have been in that front carriage. I might have been sitting next to him. I would have been killed.
We pulled out of the station, and then it happened. There was a huge bang, and the train stopped. At first, we didn’t think much of it. You know what the tube’s like. It sounded like there could have been a power surge, and we were only a couple of carriages down from the driver – maybe something had gone. It could have been an engine explosion.
We wouldn’t truly know what had happened until we got out.
Then everything went dark and we started to hear screams. Smoke started coming in, just pouring in. It was getting darker and darker and there were a couple of people coughing badly. We could still hear people screaming from a couple of carriages up and people were starting to get quite worried.
The worst thing was the screams.
It felt like we were sat there for a long time, but I think it was only a couple of minutes. People stayed in their seats and we didn’t know what to do. We still didn’t know what had happened.
Some people were cracking jokes, as you do when times get tough like that. One man was just going round comforting people who were upset, saying, “Look, you’ll be fine,” just taking the sting out of it all.
It felt like that true British spirit – we don’t panic, we just get on with things and get them sorted.
But the smoke kept coming in. People were choking. We couldn’t get out, and we couldn’t open any windows either, so we decided to do something.
My umbrella was the kind with a big pointed tip. One of the guys in the carriage – a big bloke, young and fit – said “give that to me”, and started hitting the window with it. The window turned out to be pretty tough, but eventually it cracked, and then it was just a case of kicking it in.
The edge of the broken window was jagged, and there was hardly any space between the side of the train and the tunnel. You could perhaps just about fit a body in there. It didn’t look like a very pleasant way of trying to get out.
Luckily, in the end they opened up the last carriage of the train and the people in my carriage were able to walk out. Everybody was told to leave their belongings behind.
Being right towards the front of the train meant we were among the last off, and walking through the deserted tube – all these bags, coats, and all sorts, just abandoned – felt eerie and surreal. This big empty train-carriage full of people’s stuff.
We didn’t have to walk far along the tunnel to get back to the platform, and at that point, we still didn’t know what had actually happened or how serious it was.
There were some casualties already on the platform when we got there. I still don’t know how. I’ve since wondered if maybe the explosion had blown through to the other tunnel and they’d gone in to get the most injured people out of the bombed carriage first.
They were covered with blood. I noticed blood on the concrete walls where people had brushed past. Some were lying down, covered. Dead.
Police were saying, “If you can help people up from the platform then please do.” I helped a lady who had cut her leg quite badly up the stairs anyway and into an ambulance.
Outside King's Cross station there were people running left and right, nurses, doctors, police. We still didn’t know what on earth had happened – only that it was something bad, and that there were people to be helped.
Just the day before, people were out in the streets down in Trafalgar Square celebrating England’s win of the Olympic bid. This was quite a contrast.
I wanted to go home.
Everyone who was in my carriage was supposed to go to the hospital to see if there was any damage from the smoke inhalation, but I felt fine, and it’s a nightmare getting out of London at the best of times. My train was in so I got on it.
The guard checked my ticket in the normal way at the barrier. He said that he didn’t know what was going on, but that something terrible had happened.
On the train people were looking at me strangely. It wasn’t until I got home that I saw my face was completely black from the smoke.
I turned on the news and finally understood what was happening. Even then it was a bit sketchy. I had calls from work, asking where I was, and when I told them I’d been on that train, they said, “You’re joking, aren’t you?”
I went into the garden and cut the lawn. I didn’t know what else to do.
I felt relief, knowing that things could have been so different.
Afterwards, I didn’t think too much about the bombers. It was more, “Why would you do this?”
I felt sorry for them. I didn’t hate them or want revenge.
They’re just these sad, young kids following their misguided beliefs. They think they have no chance of changing their situation and fundamentalism makes them think that they could be something. It’s a shame that in this country we have a lot of people out there who have no hope.
It took a few months to get back on the tube. A lot of people changed the way they went to work or asked if they could work from home more. I got the bus at the start. On the tube you’re down deep, there’s no space, and it felt less claustrophobic above ground. My route went through where the Russell Square bus bomb had been. I still felt like it could happen again.
But nothing happened, and you don’t want to be blasé, but you think, “What can you do?” I found myself getting back on where I always had. I’m not sure it was even a conscious decision.
It hardly even seems like that long ago – time goes very quickly at my age – but I’ve never marked any anniversaries of that day. You just have to continue with your life. There were a lot of people who weren’t able to do that.
I still can’t understand why I didn’t get on in my usual carriage though, or why I felt so much like I needed that stupid umbrella. If we hadn’t been let out, maybe a few people would have got through the window because of that.
Do I believe in fate? Yeah, I do. God’s got a plan for us, and I think he obviously had a few plans for me that day. I was saved.
But you’re better off not thinking about what could have happened.
You just get on.