As the inquest into the July 7 attacks draws to a close, Thelma Stober tells Channel 4 News of being blown out of the train during the Aldgate bombing, and that giving evidence was “cathartic”.
Thelma Stober was travelling to work on the London Underground on 7 July 2005 when Shehzad Tanweer detonated a bomb which blew her out of the carriage and onto the track.
Mrs Stober, a lawyer and legal advisor to the London 2012 Olympic bid – which was won the day before the attacks in the capital – standing just a few feet away from the bomber as the Circle Line train travelled towards Aldgate tube station.
She lost her left foot and part of her leg in the blast which killed seven people.
“I opened my eyes and found myself lying on the train tracks, partially under a train,” Mrs Stober told Channel 4 News.
“Part of the door of the train was stuck on my leg. There was somebody’s hand on my head and I removed it and it fell.”
Mrs Stober said another passenger stayed with her and held her hand until the emergency services arrived.
“There was a man in an orange coat and another man who I subsequently contacted and I call my guardian angel – Colin Pettit,” she said.
“This chap came over and was sitting down with me and held my hands.
“My clothes were burnt and I was cold so he used his jacket and covered me and held my hands and was talking to me.”
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Mrs Stober gave evidence to the inquest into the London bombings in October and met people at the hearing who thought she was dead.
“It was an opportunity for me to find out what happened. To give a personal account of what happened to me. To hear other people talk about the incident and seeing me there, laying on the tracks. Some of them thought I’d died.
“I met people in the waiting room who said to me, ‘we saw you laying there we actually thought you were dead. It’s amazing how you survived’.
“I’ve only recounted what I remember – I’d never come across anyone or never heard anyone said we saw you, you did this, you did that. We sort of hugged each other, it was just amazing.
“In a sense it was a cathartic experience to help me move on in my journey of recovery.”
Although Mrs Stober said giving evidence at the inquest gave her a sense of closure, it left her feeling depressed as she recounted her guilt of not being able to help the man beside her whose hand she had taken off her head.
A week after she attended the inquest, Mrs Stober received a letter from the family of the man, Richard Gray, who took comfort in her evidence.
“For five years I lived with the guilt of not helping him,” Mrs Stober told Channel 4 News.
“At the time I was concerned with saving myself and I felt guilt for not turning round…to look to see whether he was alive. And after the evidence I felt really depressed and I questioned whether it was the right thing to have done.
“A week later I got a letter from his mother saying that they were in court and had heard my evidence and together with others they were convinced that their son died instantly. There was nothing I could have done.
“But they took comfort in the fact that there was somebody close to him in his last moments and they thanked me. That made it worth it. I bought comfort to the lives of the family of somebody who died.
“I still feel guilty that he died and that I was alive but I felt (the inquest) was worth it. They received information that would help them as a family to come to terms and to move on. And that has helped me to.”
Mrs Stober added: “I’d like to thank [Richard Gray’s mother] for this letter – it meant a lot to me and I’m really sorry about the loss of her son.”
As the inquest draws to a close, Mrs Stober told Channel 4 News that the events and aftermath of July 7 had a profound effect on her life which, almost six years on, she was still trying to conquer.
“It’s changed my life significantly. I don’t like dwelling on it because I don’t like failure, I thrive on challenges.
“I once said to myself when I was reflecting on this: I came to England when I was 10. I went to school and went to university here. I wanted to be a lawyer. I dealt with challenges of being a woman and being a black woman. I got to the top of my profession. This is one challenge that I can’t completely deal with and conquer.
“The fact is I lost my foot. And that has a significant impact on my life. I can’t do everything that I used to do.
“So in terms of being able to conquer adversity this is one that I haven’t completely been able to. But I say I’m on a journey.”