The significance of one Thursday
Director of the play Thursday Chris Drummond, which opens in Canberra next week, and London bombing survivor Gill Hicks. Photo: Chris Herzfeld
Australian Gill Hicks lost her legs as a result of the London bombings on a Thursday in 2005 and on a Thursday in January this year she gave birth to her daughter, Amelie.
Thursday is also the name of a new play opening in Canberra later this month which was inspired by Hicks' story and explores the notion that diabolical acts can reflect the best and worst in humanity. She is also speaking at a booked-out engagement at Parliament House on Saturday night.
Her daughter's birth may have put a whole new perspective on the day "Thursday" but Hicks is also not about pat endings and easy answers. Amelie, just eight-weeks-old, is her "little miracle" and Hicks has made the decision to live her life without bitterness and retribution and to honour the work of her rescuers by regarding each day as a gift.
"I'm so absolutely fortunate to be here. Why, then, would I want to have the cancer of hatred flowing through me each and every day?" she said
But she also says making a deliberate decision to remain positive is difficult.
"I don't want to sounds false and cheesy and 'Isn't everything perfect!' because sometimes it's not," she said. "I think reality and life is about ups and lots of downs and it's about grabbing the ups while they are there."
She says Amelie is a "real testament to those who never gave up" rescuing her from that wrecked carriage on the London Underground - ambulance officers, police, rail staff - who remain her "very, very dear and close friends". Those officers were among the first to be told she was pregnant.
"The big thing for all of them to join in with me is, 'Wow my life now has produced a new life' and, please God my daughter goes on to have children. And you start to then think the impact of one life is extraordinary that there could be a whole lineage of people that may never have existed had things changed that morning for me. And that becomes incredibly powerful," she said.
The director of Thursday, Chris Drummond, was inspired to write the play when he saw Hicks being interviewed on Enough Rope by Andrew Denton.
"The way he tells it, he was quite taken by the fullness of the story but also what he took from what I was saying was 'Wow there is such a lack of hatred and bitterness and a need for retribution' and that just sparked a million thoughts. Not what he would expect to hear from someone who's been in a terrorist attack and lost their legs. He sat on it for a while and then approached me and said, 'I want to explore something. Will you come on the journey with me?'," she said.
Set in an allegorical city with a cast of nine and using the events of the London bombings as a background, Thursday, written by UK playwright Bryony Lavery, reflects Hicks' faith in humanity. She was the last person rescued from the wrecked carriage. She was given the initial label "one unknown, estimated female" because her body was so battered. Both her legs were eventually amputated below the knee.
"The people who entered that carriage, who went down in that tunnel, who risked their own lives to save mine, did so without a fleeting thought - it didn't matter what colour I was, whether I was male or female, nothing matter except I was a human life."
There was also the question of fate. She had spent that morning having an argument with then fiance and trying to find a scarf she never usually wore. She left her travel pass behind and had to buy a ticket. She was late getting to the train and usually wouldn't have been travelling when the bombs went off at 8.50am. She ended up using that scarf as a tourniquet, making a conscious decision to live. Nineteen-year-old Germaine Lindsey, who detonated the bomb on her carriage on the Piccadilly Line, had been standing one person away from her. Twenty-six people died on that carriage. A total of 56 people were killed in the bombings including the four bombers.
Director Chris Drummond says the play Thursday "explores the contradiction between how people can be at once so needlessly violent, yet also capable of incredible bravery and compassion, even towards complete strangers".
Hicks, 44, admits she had "a few drinks" before seeing Thursday for the first time.
"I saw it and it was like being an observer watching parts of my life unfold on stage. It was incredible. I just hugged [playwright] Bryony and just sobbed into her chest. Even though it wasn't me, there was enough of the story there. That was something I experienced and now I get a chance to view that experience."
Hicks wore her prosthetic legs to walk down the aisle to marry Joe Kerr just five months after the disaster. They have since divorced. "I just think we weren't right for each other previously," she said. "We'd been together for a long time and there's a real lesson there that no matter what happens, now matter how big a life-changing incident that brings you back together, the things that have never been right, will never be right. An incident can mask that for only a certain amount of time".
Hicks, who now campaigns for peace through her organisation, MAD [Making a Difference] for Peace, has been living back in her hometown Adelaide for the last year with her partner Karl Fulzon. And now their little Amelie.
"I've already planted tulips," she said. "Things that I never would imagined, I'm now doing."
* Thursday will be performed at The Playhouse from March 20 to 23.