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The power to choose how to react to anything - even tragedy - and the power of love, were the take-out messages from the extraordinary Dr Gill Hicks MBE, survivor of the 2005 London Underground bombing when she spoke at the Jessie Street Women’s Library annual fundraising lunch this week. Ms Kate Seale, Wenona’s Director of Community and Service Learning and nine Wenona students from Years 9,10 and 11 were moved to tears by Dr Hicks’ story and resilience.
Ms Hicks told her audience that she saw the terrorist in her train carriage just before everything went black. Then she heard voices ... ‘You are going to die’, in the most beautiful female voice she’d ever heard, which was then contradicted by an angry male voice: ‘you are going to live’. And she believes she chose life. She somehow used her scarf as tourniquet on what remained of her legs - otherwise she would have bled to death. She recalls being briefly aware of others in the carriage reaching out to each other, holding and lovingly comforting each other. Then there was nothing until she awoke a month later in hospital.
It was a transformational experience. Dr Hicks believes she survived because of her strength to choose and the power of love. Her next choice was to dedicate her life to building peace. She now works directly with terrorists and victims of terrorism, as well as locally and internationally, through her not-for-profit, MAD (Making a Difference) for Peace network.
Prior to the tube terrorist act, Dr Hicks was an award-winning Australian architect living in London. Since the event, she has married and had a child and now walks with prosthetic legs.
“Dr Hicks lost both her legs in the bombings but chose to fight for life and her story certainly touched every person in the room,” said Sophie, Year 11 Service Prefect.
“It made us reflect on how we choose to react to trauma and what is going on in our world today, and that this choice can make a profound difference to our own experiences and those of others, “ said Rebecca, Year 11 Service Prefect.
“And the address underlined the need to learn from history and the need to promote peace,” said Sophie.
At the lunch, Wenona girls met both Dr Hicks and Ms Tanya Davies, the Federal Minister for Mental Health, Minister for Women, and Minister for Ageing.
No doubt a great sense of humour helped Dr Hicks too: when she was to be measured for her prostheses, she persuaded the doctor to give her a few more inches in height - she’d always wanted to be a bit taller! However, she still gets a great deal of pain and copes by telling herself it is a reminder that she’s alive and to be grateful for life.