Affecting first-person account of the 2005 London terrorist attacks.
First-time author Debnam, a rapid-response officer with the British Transport Police, was among the first emergency personnel to arrive on the scene after a bomb exploded aboard a train just outside the Russell Square underground station on July 7. It was one of four terrorist incidents below and above ground on that day, in which 52 people were killed. Debnam’s breathless, minute-by-minute chronicle of the devastation and carnage he encountered is explicit and harrowing. His narrative has a raw, unfinished quality that lends a refreshing authenticity to his perspective on the events of that day—and the posttraumatic stress he later suffered. In addition to describing the grisly aftermath of the worst terrorist attack in British history, Debnam delicately weaves in two related stories. The first concerns Gill Hicks, a young professional woman rescued from the smoke-filled train. By the time Debnam and a colleague reached her, she was barely alive: The excruciating summertime heat meant that everyone, injured or otherwise, was endangered by severe dehydration. The officer thought Hicks had succumbed to her trauma but later discovered that she survived. (Their reunion was broadcast on British television.) The second incident occurred several weeks after the terrorist attacks, when Debnam confronted a deranged man aboard another underground train and subdued him with tear gas, an effort that earned the officer front-page coverage in the Evening Standard. Interspersed with all this are glances into Debnam’s tumultuous personal life: a failed marriage, a young son he barely knows, his pub-owning mother, an unexpected, unwanted transfer away from his buddies that brought him close to an emotional breakdown, the unexpected discovery of new love at his lowest personal ebb.
Another triumph-over-adversity story, but notable for its unique viewpoint.