Saved By A Stranger: Aspiring psychologist on how woman helped him survive 7/7 bombings

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Saved By A Stranger is a new series coming to BBC Two on April 29 and it provides insight into some of the world’s biggest tragedies. The four-part documentary series reveals how strangers have the ability to offer acts of kindness in the darkest of moments. Karl spoke exclusively to about how a woman helped him survive the London 7/7 bombings.

The July 7 London bombings of 2005 saw four separate Islamist suicide attacks claim more than 50 lives.

Three explosive devices were detonated at Aldgate, Edgware Road and Russell Square, with a fourth on a double-decker bus at Tavistock Square.

Karl, who was training to be a dancer at the time, got on a tube at King’s Cross that very morning.

He was only 23 at the time and had no idea he had crossed paths with the bombers at King’s Cross.

When one of the explosives went off in his carriage, he was comforted by a woman who reached out for his hand.

More than 15 years later, he was still trying to locate and thank the stranger who ‘saved’ him.

Having been attracted to the pace of London, a young Karl travelled to the city to train as a professional dancer.

He had been heading to a rehearsal, excited at the opportunities opening up around him, and boarded an underground train at King’s Cross.

After a short while, he heard a loud bang, followed by a period of silence, and eventually screaming.

The carriage was pitch black and full of smoke, and Karl amongst others thought they would be buried alive as they believed the tube had collapsed.

During a period of panic, Karl said a woman asked to hold his hand and she remained calm.

When Karl was convinced they would not make it out, the woman reassured and comforted him.

She convinced him they would make it out alive and Karl told she was the reason he was able to pull through.

He said: “No one had any idea what had happened. I was evacuated and I was in complete flight mode.

“My mum heard the news and said it was a power surge and I said no, there was a big bang.”

Once the passengers had been taken to safety, after what felt like an eternity, they waited to be checked over but Karl asked to leave. He said: “I was going to get on a bus, I was walking away from the bus when the bomb detonated.

“I was on the phone to my mum and she heard it go off and she just told me to run.”

Karl managed to get to his college in Covent Garden and he did not seek any mental or physical support until a couple of days later.

He was experiencing problems with his breathing due to smoke inhalation and sought medical help, which kickstarted his treatment.

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Having been training for a graduate show at the time, he felt the events of that day were overshadowed by his career prospects and said he did not feel “worthy” of support.

He said: “I played it down a bit, I felt I didn’t have any right to support. I went on my first UK tour and it was a really exciting time and I didn’t want to go through that darkness.

“When I came back from the tour I was back in London and had treatment.”

He described the moment a kind-hearted woman had held onto him following the blast, but there was one memory that continued to disturb him.

When he and the rest of the passengers were asked to leave the train carriage, he remembered “pushing” the woman out of the way so he could get out first.

He said: “It was very uncharacteristic, it’s something that really bothered me and I felt an immense sense of guilt.”

Wanting to reach out to the mystery woman, he posted in a King’s Cross Survivors Facebook group but heard nothing back.

It was not until recently that he saw a message from a production company offering the opportunity to find lifesavers like the woman he had met.

The Saved By A Stranger team managed to track down a woman called Susan, who believed her account of the events matched Karl’s.

The pair were given the opportunity to meet, but they are still unsure as to whether Susan was the woman Karl was looking for.

Speaking about the meet-up, he said: “I was petrified, I was really nervous. When I first saw her I felt the sense of comfort, it was the first time I had met someone who felt anything similar.

“It didn’t really matter if it was her or not in that moment. She offered me a gift when she said that person had also supported her.”

He may not have felt worthy of support at the start, but trainee clinical psychologist Karl encouraged everyone involved to seek guidance.

He said: “If I’m completely honest there’s definitely a part of me that is hoping someone will say ‘that was me’ and we will have some real clarity.

“There must be so many people like me feeling they don’t deserve or need treatment, I wish I would have got treatment from the get-go – it wouldn’t have shortened the healing process.

“We all have the capacity to help one another in the darkest of moments, it’s just reaching out.”

Saved By A Stranger starts on April 29 on BBC Two.

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