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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Coco Khan

I was the most injured female survivor of 7/7 – and I wouldn’t change a thing about my life

Martine Wright, a survivor of the 7/7 attacks in London
‘For many years, it was: Why me? But I don’t ask that any more’ … Martine Wright. Photograph: David Levene/The Guardian

Martine Wright, 50, is no longer haunted by the question that so often follows trauma: “Why me?” Why did it have to be her on the train that fateful July day in 2005? Why did it have to be her family that suffered, not knowing where she was when the news came in about the events now known as the 7/7 London bombings? And why did she have to lose both her legs in the terrorist attack?

“For many years, it was: ‘Why me?’” she says. “But I don’t ask that question any more.”

Getting to this point has been a long and painful journey. It is one that has seen Wright go from being rescued from the tube tunnel with such profound injuries that she could not be identified, to representing Britain at the Paralympics in sitting volleyball and, now, working as a motivational speaker and charity ambassador. “People always ask what the turning point was,” she says, “but there have been many turning points.”

When Wright and I connect over Zoom, it is three days after the 18th anniversary of the bombings. She is in her home in Hertfordshire, where she lives with her husband, Nick, and son, Oscar – her “miracle” baby, who arrived four years after the attack.

Wright after receiving an MBE for services to sport in 2016.
Wright after receiving an MBE for services to sport in 2016. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

For years, 7 July was difficult. “I’d have to disappear, maybe go on holiday,” she says. “I couldn’t turn the TV on. Now, I don’t need to do that, but I still look at the clock at 8.50am.”

It was shortly after this time that three of the four 7/7 suicide bombers detonated their devices in the vicinity of Aldgate, Edgware Road and Russell Square stations. Wright, who was 32 and working as an international marketing manager, was on the Circle line, just feet away from the Aldgate bomber. It was not her usual train.

“I never got on the Circle line, because you always have to wait ages for it,” she says. “But that morning, I got to Old Street and there was a signal failure.”

The day before, 6 July, it was announced that London had won its bid to host the Olympics in 2012. Wright was working at media company CNET, and went out to celebrate with colleagues. The following morning, 7 July, she overslept and was running late.

“I thought: ‘What am I going to do? Get off at Old Street and find a bus? Or stay on the train?’ It’s a real sliding doors moment.” She stayed on the train, switching to the Circle line at Moorgate. “I was reading my paper and it was all about London 2012. I’m a proud Londoner. I was just thinking: ‘This is going to be massive!’ I remember going into that tunnel, thinking: ‘I’ve got to get tickets.’ And then it happened.”

Wright doesn’t remember the bang, only a flash of white and being rocked. “And then we’re all in this environment that doesn’t look like the tube. You couldn’t see anything. It was just black, with the smell of electrical burning. And people screaming.”

The train had been ripped apart, with a crater where the bomber had been sitting. The seats were no longer in a line. “I was lucky. The impact of the bomb had swung me round 90 degrees, so I couldn’t see what was happening behind me. That’s where everyone was. Dying, behind me. It took me a while to realise what had happened. I thought we’d had a crash.”

She does not remember the pain – “my legs were mangled in the metal” – but she remembers the people. She remembers a man, Andrew Brown, talking to her – he had been in the seat next to her, but after the crash was behind her, being electrocuted by wires. At her feet was Kira Mason, crying out in pain. Mason’s arm had been severed.

And she remembers her “guardian angel”, Elizabeth Kenworthy, an off-duty police officer, who was two carriages away. “As everyone was being evacuated, she made her way towards the danger, like many, many people that day.

“She saw the state of my legs, and asked fellow passengers for belts and cardigans to create tourniquets. I wouldn’t be sitting here now if she hadn’t, because the doctors told me I’d lost 80% of my blood.”

Did she think she was going to die? “Not then, I didn’t. Even though I was the most injured female survivor that day.” Kenworthy stayed with Wright and Brown for more than an hour. She received an MBE for her heroism.

Wright was taken to the Royal London hospital under the name “Hotel Unknown”. Her family searched for her there, but were put into a large holding room with 22 other families also looking for a missing person. “Apparently, someone announced that they had three unidentified: two men and one woman. Twenty-two families wanted their loved ones to be one of us three.”

Wright’s family were asked if she had any distinguishing marks and they mentioned a mole. The police confirmed that the mole was present, but Wright’s injuries were so severe that when her brother and sister were asked to identify “Hotel Unknown”, they said it wasn’t her. But her mum recognised her: “It was the eyebrows.”

Wright remained in a coma for more than a week. She has a memory of waking for the first time in the night and trying to get up. “I couldn’t because my whole centre of gravity had changed. You don’t realise how much your legs weigh and the ballast they give you.

Wright is helped to learn to walk again by physiotherapist Maggie Uden at St Mary’s hospital in Roehampton, in 2005.
Wright is helped to learn to walk again by physiotherapist Maggie Uden at St Mary’s hospital in Roehampton, in 2005. Photograph: Dan Chung/the Guardian

“I remember looking down at a ruffled blanket and there being nothing else there. The nurse said: ‘I’ve got to tell you something: we’ve had to take your legs away, Martine. You’ve been amputated above both knees.’ I was on a lot of morphine. I just remember looking down, not taking it in, and falling back to sleep.”

The next day, it became clear. “You know I said I didn’t have that feeling, on that tube, that I was going to die? I had it then. I said to the nurse: ‘You need to give me a piece of paper, I need a pen, I want to tell my mum and dad where I want my ashes scattered.’ And I’m trying to write, but I can’t.

“I remember going: ‘Look, I’ve got no legs, Mum.’ Over and over. My mum grabbed my face and said: ‘Martine, you are still here. And you are still Martine. You could have been one of those people that lost their lives, or got a brain injury, but you didn’t.

‘ You lost your legs but you’ll get new ones. And you are still Martine.’”

Wright, in the No 7 shirt she wore in homage to the date that changed her life, celebrates a point with teammates during a volleyball match at the 2012 London Paralympics.
Wright, in the No 7 shirt she wore in homage to the date that changed her life, celebrates a point with teammates during a volleyball match at the 2012 London Paralympics. Photograph: Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty Images

Rebuilding her life, she has drawn on the strength of her family, friends, other victims and even strangers who have lifted her up over the years.

Like Jeanette. Jeanette lost both her arms and legs through meningitis and Wright got to know her at the amputee rehabilitation service at Queen Mary’s hospital, Roehampton, where she would stay five days a week at a centre named after the famous amputee pilot Douglas Bader.

“Jeanette and I learned to walk again together,” she recalls. “I don’t know whether I would have kept with it if it wasn’t for her, because Jeanette lost four of her limbs, and it’s like: ‘If you do it, I can do it.’”

Wright was put in touch with charities including the Douglas Bader Foundation and was soon following in the aviator’s footsteps, learning to jump out of planes and even gained her pilot’s licence.

Through this, her relationship with her new body improved. “I went around with a blanket on my legs for the first six months. I wanted people to think I was paralysed, not an amputee.” But as she learned new skills, she focused on what she could do, rather than what she couldn’t.

A chance suggestion put her on the road to London 2012. “I’d come back from flying and was living with Mum when someone told me to go to a Paralympic sports day hosted by the Limbless Association. It was near where I lived, so I went along and tried out all the sports. I fell in love with sitting volleyball.”

There wasn’t a women’s national team at that time, but the announcement of London 2012 gave the sport momentum, heralding the creation of one. Wright tried out, made the official Team GB squad and began the training process for the 2012 London Paralympics.

When the event arrived, Wright was no longer living in London, but returning felt special, like a homecoming. She wore a No 7 shirt as a homage to the date that changed her life.

“I remember rolling out of the tunnel, looking to my left and seeing my Team Me – my family, my friends, holding up signs.” What’s “Team Me”? “Just something I made up. We all have a Team Me, and we’re all in someone else’s Team Me.”

Wright recounts how, since that terrible day, her life has been full of coincidences; beautifully serendipitous – lucky, even.

“My life is full of circles,” she says, like dreaming about going to London 2012 when the bomb hit, then going as a player. Or how she is now an ambassador for a hospital trust that includes St Bartholomew’s – the City of London hospital where generations of her family were born. Or how, when they announced the Paralympics team at the top of City Hall, she could see International House near Tower Bridge out of the window – her old workplace, to which she had been travelling on 7 July 2005.

“Maybe I’m just putting meaning on it, but it feels significant,” she says. “And sometimes life is about finding the meaning.”

Has believing that everything happens for a reason helped her recovery?

“Maybe, but I think it’s more about seeing the magic of that day. And I know that magic and bombings don’t really belong together, but you had the scale of humankind that day: you had the most selfish act in the world, but you also had people who were risking their own lives, not knowing what they were running towards, not knowing if there was a secondary device.”

Wright has felt these bolts of meaning or significance ever since she woke up from her coma. Her first feeling of luck was when she learned how many died that day, including some who were sitting further away from the bomb than she was. Another was during her stay at the Royal London: “The first time I saw the other victims in physio, I was thinking: ‘Well, you’ve lost one leg. You’ve lost one ankle. You’ve lost one arm. Why the fuck have I lost two legs above the knee?’ I was feeling bitter. But then you start talking to people. Some victims were not as injured as me, but psychologically, they were really finding it difficult.”

The moments of significance or strange coincidence continue to occur. “Everyone will have memories of that day, because it was so high profile,” says Wright. “But some weird things have happened.” She rattles off a series of curious stories: at a speaking event, she found herself sitting next to someone whose husband had been working in the Royal London holding room, and her first flying competition happened to be held on 7 July.

“So many people lost their lives that day, and other days, to terrorism. It could happen any time, any place. But I’m lucky because I’m here. That’s why I still talk about what happened; I feel I have a responsibility to. If there’s one person who can get something from my story, then all the pain was worth it, because good things do come out of bad.”

Before our conversation ends, I ask Wright if, knowing everything she does now, she would still stay on that train?

“Yes,” she says, quick as a flash. “I wouldn’t go back, because my life, my outlook, the people I meet … it’s an honour.

“Whether you believe in fate or not does not matter. Life is a journey, and it’s about how we deal with it, and the people we have in place, Team Mes, to support us.

“It’s about realising that life is not necessarily perfect. There are ups and downs, and you have to experience it all. You can’t get to acceptance until you go through those ups and downs. You can’t rush it.”

• Do you have an opinion on the issues raised in this article? If you would like to submit a letter of up to 300 words to be considered for publication, email it to us at

• This article was amended on 1 August 2023 to remove a reference to “wheelchair volleyball”.

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