7/7: 10 Years On - Survivor of bombings returns to Leeds to spread message of peace

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SHE is a survivor of one of Britain’s worst ever domestic tragedies, the 7/7 London bombings.

He is a community lynchpin in the quiet inner city suburb of Leeds which became forever linked with the events of that fateful day.

Gill Hicks,  who lost both her legs in the London bombings of 7/7, pictured with  Hanif Malik at the Hamara Centre, Tempest Road,Leeds. Picture by Simon Hulme.

Gill Hicks, who lost both her legs in the London bombings of 7/7, pictured with Hanif Malik at the Hamara Centre, Tempest Road,Leeds. Picture by Simon Hulme.

So when Gill Hicks met Hanif Malik in Beeston to mark 10 years since the atrocity, it was a moment of unparalleled hope and symbolism.

Gill lost both her legs as a result of the attacks on July 7, 2005, which were carried out by four young men – three of them from Leeds.

She was standing near Jermaine Lindsay in a train on the Piccadilly line between King’s Cross and Russell Square stations when he detonated a bomb, killing himself and 26 others.

She clung to her life - and has since dedicated it to becoming a global ambassador for peace.

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To mark the 10th anniversary of 7/7, Gill - who now lives in Australia and has a two year old daughter, Amelie - is undertaking 10 challenges to raise money for 10 different charities.

She says the tasks - which include abseiling, bungee jumping and swimming with sharks - are “designed to captivate, motivate and encourage people to think about how we each can make a significant difference and ‘DO’ peace”.

Gill first visited Leeds in 2008, and returned this week to catch up with friends and fellow campaigners, including Hanif Malik, chief executive of the Hamara centre in Tempest Road, Beeston, an area where two of the London bombers had links.

“Leeds wasn’t the reason why I lost my legs,” she told the YEP.

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“I am absolutely of the firm belief that what happened to me and to other victims was not the responsibility or the blame of people in Leeds.

“That’s why it is so important to be here, to be united together in the face of violent extremism, and in defiance of people who choose to take that path.

“We are ultimately living proof that those tactics don’t work and that humanity will prevail.”

Asked how often she thinks back to 7/7, she said the events of that day “will live me forever” but she has learned to channel her anger into a positive motivator for change.

“I will never know what it’s like to have my legs back,” she said.

“The events of that day will live with me forever.

“I think in many ways my anger grows as the years go on.

“I’m not in any way bitter, not filled with any form of hatred, but my anger is there and I’ve managed to use it as something that fuels me to keep moving forward and to keep working towards peace.

“Because it’s not ok for my legs to be gone, It’s not ok for lives to be lost anywhere in the world. So in order to stop this parasitic, destructive ideology from spreading, my anger is a great motivator.”

Of the young men who committed the atrocity, she says: “To be honest I don’t think about them.

“All I have ever thought is that they had free will and choice right up to the moment that they detonated that bomb.

“And I feel very sad that they chose independently to take the route that they did, and indeed that they thought of me as their enemy, that they presumed.

“If anything, I’ve tried to learn from their example, that [we should] never assume anything about anyone, and always to look to understand and talk and have dialogue, those are things that I was never offered before someone presumed and tried to take my life.

“But that’s as far as it goes.

“They are dead, they are gone, and the concentration and the focus absolutely is the future, and to do everything possible to make sure that we stamp out the allure of very destructive and violent ideology.”

Mr Malik said Ms Hicks was “a total inspiration”.

“Inspiration is sometimes overused but for her it’s absolutely the right word,” he said.

“It would be so easy to understand if she was full of anger and bitterness. But she is the complete opposite.

“She is full of optimism and has turned her personal experience around completely into a positive.

“I think in some ways her coming here [to Beeston] was important for her and the community and Hamara, because it took us back 10 years and we were able to almost reconcile what occurred very sadly on that day on July 7 with all the positive things that emerged.

“Clearly we have all attempted to move on in those 10 years,

“But we spend all of our time these days focusing on the negatives.

“It was important in the sense that it just highlighted all the good in humanity.”

>See www.gilltalks.com/power10 for more on Gill’s 10-task fundraising challenge and her campaign work,

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