7/7 survivor looking for woman who helped her after she fled bombing
When Nicky Ratcliff stumbled into a café dazed and in tears after her tube was struck by a suicide bomber, she was greeted by a kind stranger who comforted her with a free cup of tea.
But 14 years to the day after the 7/7 bombings devastated London, Nicky still can’t find that café and has never been able to thank the woman who helped her in the immediate aftermath.
Nicky, 42, was travelling on the Piccadilly Line on the morning of July 7, 2005, when a bomb was detonated on her tube service between King’s Cross and Russell Square.
It was the deadliest of a series of attacks targeting London commuters’ rush hour, which killed 52 innocent people and injuring almost 800 more.
Suicide bomber Germaine Lindsay detonated the device just before 8.55am in the packed front carriage, near the rear set of double doors, and left 26 dead.
But Nicky, who was just two carriages away, had no idea that morning would forever be remembered as the UK’s first terrorist attack.
It had been a normal morning for Nicky, of Faversham, Kent, who had recently moved to the capital for a fresh start after a relationship break-up.
Nicky, then 28, was running late for work and rushed down to the platform at Finsbury Park to catch the Piccadilly Line towards King’s Cross.
She told Metro.co.uk: ‘I was wearing my headphones, listening to Coldplay, and I got on and found a corner – I was really tired – I was just leaning by the doors.
‘I thought I’ll just chill out. It was a busy train.’
A few stops later, Nicky, who was listening to the music loudly at the time, suddenly felt a ‘weird vibration’.
‘I thought: “God what the hell was that?” and then the doors that I was leaning on split slightly,’ she added.
‘Then there was dust. I could hear the bloke on the tannoy trying to make it work again.
‘Then the carriage filled with smoke – it was billowing in and everyone started to panic. None of us had a clue what was going on.’
Passengers desperately tried to look to each other for answers and began praying, as one woman tried to reassure everyone they would be alright.
‘My first thought was to reach for my phone and call mum and dad but I realised I was underground – I couldn’t,’ said Nicky.
‘The smoke calmed down for a bit and I thought maybe it was a fire that had stopped – I don’t know what I was thinking.
‘Then there was suddenly all this black smoke. Someone said: “Get down”, so we all did.
‘I remember looking at the man opposite me, who had black soot all over his face, and thinking “that’s odd”, not realising I looked exactly the same.
‘I thought a massive fire had spread and no one was going to come down and get us because they could die.’
Around half an hour later a fireman appeared, who walked them down the dark underground tracks on foot and helped them up onto the platform at King’s Cross.
Paramedics were handing out bottles of water and sending the wounded for medical checks, but Nicky and a commuter she’d just met headed out as quickly as they could.
‘We were told it was a power surge,’ said Nicky.
‘I remember standing outside and seeing people coming out with bandages and covered in blood. I thought: “This is horrific”.’
Nicky frantically tried to call her parents but couldn’t get through and went to a café with her new friend.
‘This woman came up to me and said: “Can I give you a baby wipe?” We hadn’t realised we were both covered in black soot,’ she added.
‘Then it was announced on the radio it had been a bombing. We both just burst into tears.
‘I thought: “Jesus, what have I done to deserve that? You wanted to kill me”. It was terrifying.’
Unsure what to do and still in shock, Nicky decided to walk to work but realised she didn’t know where she was going and stumbled into another café for help.
‘I just felt lost. I walked in and burst into tears,’ she added.
‘A woman asked me what had happened and gave me a hug and made me a cup of tea for free.’
After hearing Nicky recount her traumatic ordeal in the café, a man decided to walk her all the way to her office in St Paul’s – around 40 minutes away on foot – so she could find her friends.
Mother-of-one Nicky has always wanted to thank the pair for helping her in one of the worst moments of her life.
She described the woman as middle-aged with a ‘friendly face’, while the man was tall with glasses.
‘I tried for ages to remember which café it was. I even tried walking the route again and I just couldn’t find it,’ added Nicky.
‘I tried for years to think of ways to find them, I thought about putting up posters. I wish I could’ve remembered.’
Nicky has grappled with depression and survivor’s guilt since the attack and used to go into ‘panic mode’ every time she saw someone with a large backpack on the tube.
‘On the night it happened, I’ll always remember sitting in the bath and just shaking. I couldn’t get my hands to stay still. I just couldn’t stop it,’ added Nicky.
‘After that I thought I was alright for a bit but it all came crashing down about a year later.
‘Something snapped. I suddenly thought: “Why am I still here?” I had this massive guilt.’
Nicky said she began drinking heavily to cope and felt angry all the time, getting into drunken arguments on nights out.
Eventually things improved after she sought counselling, moved back to Kent and met her now husband Mike, with who she has a daughter, Ivy, aged three.
But Nicky was dealt another blow when she was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago and is currently undergoing chemotherapy.
Although the 7/7 anniversary is always an emotional day for the mother, whose voice broke as she recounted victims’ tragic stories, Nicky has come to terms with it and gives speeches at memorial services.
However, one part of her traumatic ordeal she still cannot put to rest, is never being able to find the pair from the café.
Nicky added: ‘I just want to find them and say thank you really. I’ve got a terrible sense of direction – I would’ve never got to work otherwise!
‘But I always wanted to meet the woman and say thanks to her.
‘She made me feel comforted, all you want is a hug in moments like that.’
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