Horror on the Piccadilly Line: Gill's incredible battle for survival
PUBLISHED: 14:31 08 July 2008 | UPDATED: 15:11 07 September 2010
BY KATIE MASTERS Three years ago Gill Hicks, 39, from Islington, got on a Piccadilly Line tube to go to work. It was July 7, 2005 and in the carriage near her was 19-year-old suicide bomber Germaine Lindsay. When he detonated his bomb, 26 people died. Gill was almost one
Three years ago Gill Hicks, 39, from Islington, got on a Piccadilly Line tube to go to work. It was July 7, 2005 and in the carriage near her was 19-year-old suicide bomber Germaine Lindsay. When he detonated his bomb, 26 people died. Gill was almost one of them. She lost 75 per cent of her blood and her legs were so badly damaged they had to be amputated.
A few months later, she was filmed at St Thomas's Hospital, learning how to walk on prosthetic limbs. A publisher for Macmillan, who was off sick, saw the programme and contacted Gill, to ask her if she'd be interested in writing a book about what she'd been through. The book took six months to write and became One Unknown, re-issued this week, in paperback.
"I don't think the book is what Macmillan initially envisaged, or what people might expect," says Gill. "It's not a misery memoir. In fact, the events of July 7 play quite a small part in it. When I realised how close I'd been to dying, I felt euphoric to be alive. I was so happy the medical team were worried. I think they thought I was going to crash and burn, but that didn't happen. I'm still really happy just to be here. One Unknown, to me, is a journey of life."
The title comes from the wristband which the emergency services put on Gill.
"I was an unknown person. Yet those people not only saved me but actually put their own lives at risk to get me out of a carriage, not knowing if there'd be a secondary device, not knowing if the tunnel would collapse. It didn't matter what I believed or who I was. I was a human life. That to me is the basis of this great hope I feel about the world."
That hope has carried Gill through the painful months of learning to walk again, a feat she likens to walking on stilts, wearing stilettos that are three sizes too small. It's led to her becoming an ambassador for the charity Peace Direct and now to her setting up her own charity, MAD for Peace, the acronym standing for Make A Difference. Their first event is called Walktalk, a walk from Leeds (where three of the four bombers came from) to London. The aim is to bring people together, who otherwise might never meet.
It starts on July 19 and finishes on August 17 in central London, after passing through Hampstead Garden Suburb, Golders Green and Marylebone.
"The hardest thing I could possibly do is walk a distance like that. But I wanted to highlight that peacemaking is about doing something hard. It's not having a big group hug: confronting things is difficult and confronting conflict is difficult and opening up dialogue with people who don't want to talk is difficult. But it has to be done. Any division where there is an 'us' and a 'them' is dangerous. I want to encourage people to narrow those gaps."
One Unknown by Gill Hicks is published by Rodale, price £7.99.