I knew I had lost one of my clos­est friends

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - THE HERALD -

FOR Beccy Saw­bridge the 20 years since the tragedy have been about try­ing to find ways to deal with her feel­ings and cope with life. The 50-year-old, who was a Her­ald ste­wardess, is not ashamed to ad­mit she still has reg­u­lar coun­selling. She has also be­come a po­lit­i­cal ac­tivist – fu­elled by the fact she felt the Gov­ern­ment of the day ig­nored P&O work­ers, who came out on strike fu­ri­ous at con­tract changes they felt un­der­mined safety. Beccy, who lives in Dover’s Tower Ham­lets, was known by the nick­name The Squaw on board be­cause of her dark looks. Sev­eral months be­fore the tragedy she had trans­ferred to an­other ship called the Free En­ter­prise VIII. As news broke of the dis­as­ter, she knew deep in her heart one of her close friends, a ste­wardess called Lynda Burt, had died. Beccy also lost 20 other good friends and col­leagues in­clud­ing stew­ard Glen But­ler. With­out the ben­e­fit hind­sight af­fords, Beccy went back to work on Sun­day. Her role that day was to be with re­turn­ing sur­vivors plus fam­i­lies and friends trav­el­ling to Zee­brugge. Then came the aw­ful mo­ment she sailed past the stricken Her­ald. “The feel­ing just chilled ev­ery part of me,” she said with tears in her eyes.

Stress

Beccy now knows that the day she went back to work was the start of Post Trau­matic Stress Dis­or­der. She car­ried on work­ing in­ter­mit­tently, but had to take more and more sick leave. But feel­ings of dis­gust were un­leashed, when P&O wanted to make con­tract changes re­duc­ing man­ning lev­els. Many sea­men were hor­ri­fied at such mea­sures so soon af­ter the Her­ald. Beccy played a key role in the strikes, which be­gan in 1988. Such was her com­mit­ment, she could not pay her mort­gage and risked los­ing her house. For many strik­ers there was to be a sad end­ing. “P&O sacked me by let­ter,” she said. “Doc­tors, coun­sel­lors and the Her­ald As­sis­tance Unit were bril­liant, but the com­pany sacked me. “I am still left with a sense of in­jus­tice.”

BECCY SAW­BRIDGE: still has coun­selling

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