‘I re­alised how frag­ile our lives are’ – vic­tims re­live Par­sons Green night­mare

The Sunday Telegraph - - Terror On The Tube - By Pa­trick Sawer, Tom Ker­shaw and Ni­cola Har­ley

IN THE early hours of yes­ter­day morn­ing 13-year-old Alex Ojeda-Sierra woke up with night­mares.

And no won­der.

Just a few hours ear­lier the young school­boy had been caught up in the ter­ror of the Par­sons Green bomb at­tack and on go­ing to sleep had re­lived the en­tire or­deal.

For the adults caught up in the at­tack it was hor­rific enough. One can only imag­ine the fear and be­wil­der­ment ex­pe­ri­enced by those chil­dren whose rou­tine jour­ney to school sud­denly be­came a night­mare of smoke, noise and pan­icked crowds

Alex’s or­deal be­gan as he made his way to the Lon­don Ora­tory School on the District Line train. Sud­denly he heard scream­ing and saw pas­sen­gers run­ning past him on to the plat­form.

Un­known to him a home­made bomb had partly det­o­nated in the last car­riage of the train, cre­at­ing a fireball and send­ing peo­ple flee­ing for the lives.

As they tried to make their way up the stairs and out of the sta­tion to street level, the school­boy found him­self caught up in the crush.

He was flat­tened by flee­ing pas­sen­gers as he tripped down the se­cond flight of the steep tube sta­tion steps.

“I dropped my bag and we started run­ning,” Alex said. “One man fell on me and I had my legs bent back­wards and my right an­kle got twisted, and I started scream­ing.”

Com­pound­ing his fear was the fact his older brother Robert, 15, had boarded the train be­hind, af­ter the two had become sep­a­rated at Wim­ble­don sta­tion on their way to school when the el­dest boy stopped to go to the lava­tory.

Ar­riv­ing at Par­sons Green mo­ments af­ter the blast, Michael Perry, a fourthyear med­i­cal stu­dent, heard “screams and wail­ing” and spot­ted Alex, who was bleed­ing and bruised af­ter be­ing caught up in the panic.

Mr Perry, 29, said: “He had a mas­sive scrape, bleed­ing and con­tu­sion on his fore­head where he had been knocked for­ward, as well as gashes on his tummy and side where he had been stepped on. He had lost his brother, Robert, and was ab­so­lutely ter­ri­fied and wor­ried about him.”

He said the in­juries he saw were “con­sis­tent with a stam­pede” and said: “It was so fright­en­ing. I’m fine, but I re­ally worry for these kids, what are they go­ing to carry with them?”

Alex, who was pho­tographed be­ing car­ried away from the sta­tion by two fire­fight­ers, was taken to Chelsea and West­min­ster Hos­pi­tal, where he was treated for fa­cial bruises and sprains.

Mean­while, Robert had bor­rowed a fel­low pas­sen­ger’s phone to alert his par­ents to what was hap­pen­ing. Soon af­ter Alex, in a “very emo­tional call”, man­aged to con­tact his des­per­ately anx­ious mother, Maria, from the hos­pi­tal and let her know he was safe. His fa­ther, Robert Ojeda-Sierra, told

The Sun­day Tele­graph: “He was close to the ex­plo­sion, but not ac­tu­ally caught up in the blast. He was in the se­cond car­riage at the front and the ex­plo­sion was at the back of the train so he had fur­ther to run than ev­ery­one else. He was caught up in the stam­pede with cuts and bruises. He tripped half way there and some­one landed on him.

“Luck­ily, Robert was in the next train be­hind. He then got off at East Put­ney and he went to Clapham.

“His mum, my wife Maria, told Robert to head to school. I was pan­icked as you can imag­ine, Maria was up­set. I found out when my wife phoned me and gave me the news.”

“He’s got bruises on his head and side, noth­ing too heavy. It’s more men­tal than phys­i­cal,” he added.

Af­ter be­ing re­leased from hos­pi­tal Alex spent the rest of the day play­ing, but suf­fered a dis­turbed night, wak­ing up re­peat­edly with night ter­rors.

Mr Ojeda-Sierra, an econ­o­mist, said Alex had been an­noyed when he heard that ini­tial me­dia re­ports de­scribed him as 10-years-old.

Within mo­ments of the at­tack a pho­to­graph of the school­boy, a blan­ket wrapped around his shoul­ders, was posted on Twit­ter with the cap­tion: “Hope this lit­tle man finds his brother”.

See­ing the pho­to­graph Mrs Oje­doSierra down­loaded the Twit­ter app on to her phone in or­der to thank ev­ery­one who had ex­pressed con­cern.

“I can’t thank the school enough, and the po­lice,” she said. “They were bril­liant. I was very con­cerned about my son yes, but there have been peo­ple worst af­fected.

“Alex was very fright­ened, but life goes on. I had a very emo­tional call to him, but glad he’s OK phys­i­cally. Men­tally it may take a lit­tle longer. We just want to get some nor­mal­ity back in our lives now.”

Also caught up in the ter­ror was Anna Gor­ni­ack, who was on her way to work when she looked up to see a fireball com­ing her way. She now says she is lucky to still be alive.

“I was on my phone and the next thing I can see is peo­ple run­ning and scream­ing. I looked to my right and I could see a fireball com­ing our way,” said Ms Gor­niak, a mar­ket­ing and me­dia man­ager at a Lon­don hospitality com­pany.

“At that mo­ment I thought ‘it’s a bomb and it’s for real’ so I started run­ning. Un­for­tu­nately I had a fall so I found my­self on the floor and at that mo­ment I re­ally felt this is my last mo­ment. In my head I was re­peat­ing prayers in my head in my na­tive Pol­ish. When I saw it was OK to get up and out of the train I did that.”

Ms Gor­niak, a de­vout Chris­tian, added: “I’ve never been so close to some­thing life threat­en­ing – I just re­alised how frag­ile our lives are and we never know when it’s our time.

“I wasn’t able to be calm and pray. I’m just very thank­ful that I was pro­tected but I know my life is in some­one else’s hands. I will be pray­ing through the com­ing days. I’m thank­ful to God I’m still alive.”

An­other of those whose daily com­mute be­came the stuff of night­mares was Natalie Belford, 42, from Graves- end, Kent, who felt the in­tense heat from the blast as the de­vice went off.

“The train was packed, and I was down the other side of the car­riage stand­ing up, look­ing at my phone and then I heard a big boom and felt this heat on my face,” said Ms Belford, 42, a hair­dresser and beau­ti­cian.

“I ran for my life, but there was no way out. The doors were full of peo­ple and the car­riage was too packed to move down.”

Out­side Par­sons Green sta­tion, the sur­round­ing com­mu­nity, al­most as a re­flex, was responding in the way oth­ers around Lon­don and the rest of the coun­try sub­jected to at­tack have done.

Shops and homes opened their doors. Tea, cof­fee and wa­ter was dis­trib­uted to fright­ened com­muters and the hard-pressed emer­gency ser­vices.

Rev Tim Stil­well, whose St Dio­nis Church is yards from the scene, re­alised a ma­jor in­ci­dent had hap­pened when he heard sirens and opened the vicarage door to see lines of fire en­gines.

Among those he helped were two 11-year-old girls from nearby Lady Mar­garet School, who were in the car­riage when the bomb ex­ploded.

Al­though shaken and up­set, the girls were de­ter­mined to get to school to con­tinue their lessons, their main con­cern be­ing that the bomb had burnt their home­work.

“One girl was in the car­riage and her home­work got burnt. She man­aged to get off and went to school,” Rev Tim Stil­well said. “My wife and I spent time with the chil­dren at the school af­ter­wards to make sure they were OK. They were in high spir­its and so re­silient.”

Alex Ojeda-Sierra, 13, is car­ried away by fire­men af­ter be­ing tram­pled in the panic fol­low­ing the Tube at­tack, right. A po­lice of­fi­cer and a sol­dier at the en­trance to Horse Guards Pa­rade in White­hall, left

Counter-ter­ror­ism of­fi­cers at the ad­dress in Sun­bury on Thames with a blast shield

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