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'July 7: The day my life changed forever'

THANKFUL: Tope Teniola

FOR 40-year-old north Londoner Tope Teniola, it is a day that will remain etched in her memory as clearly as if it was yesterday. July 7, 2005, is a date that has gone down in history as the first time suicide bombings took place in Britain.

Walking along the platform at King’s Cross Underground station, Tope, a finance trainer, recalls how the mundane train journey which she had made to work for four and-a-half years, turned into a nightmare in the blink of an eye.

“It was a Thursday morning and I said my prayers before I left the house. At King’s Cross, I wanted to change for the Piccadilly line to Covent Garden. As I approached the first carriage of the train, where the bomb turned out to be, I was stopped by a security guard, who began to close the gate, saying ‘If you want to get on the train you have to run around the side.’ Had he not done that I would have tried to squeeze myself on the front of the train, as usual.

“I was extremely irritated as I didn’t want to be late, but I ran around and squeezed myself on a different carriage. We were all like a pack of sardines. I would have waited for another train but the screen failed to display the time and was blank.”

Tope described the moment the bomb went off. “My initial thought was ‘I’m going to die’. I heard a loud bang and crash. It was so loud it sounded like nothing I had ever heard before; it sounded like a big blast and I thought the train had crashed into another train in front,” she said.

“As soon as I saw the smoke gushing from the front carriage, I thought again I was going to die. Everything went totally black and clouds of choking smoke filled the Tube.

“It was so dark that nobody could see anything. I heard screams and shouts that were very disturbing. But what was more disturbing was the tannoy whereby the driver would normally communicate to the passengers, but all I could hear was a screeching noise and after a few seconds it went dead.”

Tope says a long time after the event she kept thinking of the driver and his efforts to communicate to the passengers, before dying. She said: “He was trying to communicate with us but he couldn’t. I kept saying, ‘How about the driver?’”

She describes people in the second carriage lacking oxygen and covered in soot. She thought they might die of smoke inhalation, but still tried to comfort those in her carriage by saying, “Don’t worry, someone will rescue us.”
Tope vehemently believes that if it were not for her faith in God she would not be alive today. She says her faith has stopped her from falling into depression, and has helped her to maintain her positive and upbeat personality.
“Without God I would not have lived to tell the tale. The security man did me a favour that day. God used him to prevent me boarding the first carriage, as I would normally,” she told The Voice.

Six years on, trying to create something positive from an experience that took 52 lives, Tope has written a book to help others overcome fear.

She said: “I felt scared up until two weeks afterwards. Especially when I found out it wasn’t a crash but a bomb. If not for my faith in God, I would never go and take anything in the public again. I was fearful of going on the bus or the Underground or anything of that sort up until two weeks afterwards, which I was healed from.”

Tope says there was nothing different about that day prior to the blast. “When you do things in an almost robotic fashion without any problems you feel as though it’s unlikely that there will be any problems,” she said.

DANGERS

She now encourages others to appreciate life and refuse to be inhibited by fear. She said: “We mustn’t let fear stop us, there are dangers in everything.”

In her book, You Fit Perfectly, she addresses a fragmented society through loss, rejection, disaster, debt and despair, and aims to “bring hope in time of austerity. Despite our dysfunction, we are not here by mistake.”

She said: “Although the whole book is not solely about the 7/7 disaster, it touches on the experience from beginning to end. And I use the biblical story of Joseph – which most people know as this young man (who) went through so much difficulties and trouble, and found himself in a pit and prison. But he overcame and found himself in a palace.”

Tope uses his story and her personal experiences to encourage people to become better, despite their experiences of rejection, loss, hatred, uncertainty, or insecurities.

“Close your eyes, imagine one gigantic jigsaw puzzle and you and I were among the unique billions of pieces, trying to find our exact place,” Tope says. “The search will be a struggle, also daunting and maybe we would feel like giving up. Don’t I know what it is like. I’m now free, I know who I am and I want to share my journey and revelation with you.

“I believe the book will encourage or inspire the reader, whether they were a part of the 7/7 bombings or not. Jesus is my personal saviour, but the book is for all, whether believer or non-believer, and can bring about change and confidence. It will inspire those who are in the place of fear or bondage.”

She adds: “Fear can hinder people from fulfilling their destiny.

“Think of it like this, a lot of the time we feel like a misfit and try to fit in jobs, careers and relationships etc, but our positions are not what it’s all about. It’s our place in life.”

Tope shares her experiences, empathises with those who struggle to find their place in society, and offers solutions.

She said: “I have experienced loss and challenges and difficulties, and many of us have become imprisoned by a certain mindset. But once we realise that we fit perfectly, we are set free mentally.

“Everybody in this whole world fits perfectly.”

* You Fit Perfectly is available from Christian bookshops and can be ordered from high street bookstores or online at amazon.co.uk.

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