Matthew Childs was sat only a few feet away from Mohammed Sidique Khan when he detonated his bomb on the Circle Line train at Edgeware Station on 7 July, 2005. He suffered a broken leg and required reconstructive surgery on his ankle.
He was lucky. A sense of fortuity is one of Matthew’s strongest feelings when recalling his experience of the bombings. When 52 people died Matthew still asks himself the question, why me?
“Being so close to death made me feel incredibly lucky but it took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that people of a similar age died and I survived.”
After a period of recovery to come to terms with what happened, Matthew altered his career and got on with his life. He initially tried to move on and not relive the events of 7 July but has accepted that he will always be asked questions and cannot avoid it. When asked those questions he now feels comfortable and relaxed while talking openly about his experience.
“Before the bombings I worked in advertising but I was just a suit. I wanted to do something more creative and while I worked in advertising for a short while after the bombings I soon re-trained as a gardener.
“The attacks have made me make the most of appreciating life. My perspective was changed.
“The bombings have become a sort of guiding force in my life. When I have bad days and I’m moaning or whinging about something I think of how close I was to death and I snap out of it.
“I see myself as incredibly lucky and I’ve now had ten years of life since that day – I see those years as a bonus.”
The positive approach to life that Matthew has might come as a surprise considering the traumatic nature of his experience. He harbours no feelings of anger or resentment and feels that reactionary stereotyping and generalising is counter-productive. Further, it has given him greater awareness of similar atrocities occurring elsewhere in the world – events that remind him of the progress that still needs to be made to prevent unnecessary killing. Matthew is still a young man but his worldly-wise perspective on life is clear.
Such a positive and rational perspective could only be achieved through a recovery underpinned by a strong support network. Matthew has been lucky in this regard too.
“My partner, Richard, has been my rock. We have been together since before the bombing and he has provided such strong support throughout. My family and in particular, my parents, have been great. On the day of the bombings they immediately rushed down to help and they have been there ever since.”
Matthew has formed a unique friendship with Liz Owen and Kathy Lazenbatt who were sitting in the same carriage. They also have a special bond with Steve Hucklesby, one of the men who climbed through a broken window from an adjacent carriage to help the victims. This is the other central part of Matthew’s support network.
“I have a special connection with Liz and Kathy. Only they know what happened that day. Only they have been through the same and we’ve been through much of it together. Steve climbed into the carriage to help us and he helped get me off the train. As a result he became a part of my life. People like Steve who stepped into danger to help others needed real bravery. It shows that there are lots of good people in the world.”
On the tenth anniversary of the bombings Matthew plans to meet up with Liz, Kathy and Steve in Hyde Park, spend time together and then attend the memorial service. For these survivors it is an opportunity to meet with those who shared the same experience on that train. For them it is simply a chance to remember.