Terror attack survivor becomes Paralympian

All eyes were on No. 7 when Britain played Ukraine on Friday in its first match of the Paralympic Games sitting volleyball tournament.

Martine Wright, left, of Britain shakes hands with Larysa Klochkova left, of Ukraine, prior to their women' sitting volleyball match at the 2012 Paralympics games, Friday, Aug. 31, 2012, in London. On July 7, 2005, four suicide bombers detonated explosives on London�s transit system, killing 52 commuters and the four attackers. Wright was among the injured on 7/7, losing both her legs. Seven years later, she�s been transformed into an athlete, a Paralympian.(AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

LONDON (AP) — All eyes were on No. 7 when Britain played Ukraine on Friday in its first match of the Paralympic Games sitting volleyball tournament.

That the number for Martine Wright, a former marketing manager who was traveling on London's subway on July 7, 2005, when four suicide bombers inspired by Osama bin Laden detonated explosives and killed 52 commuters. She lost both legs in the explosion.

But as Wright will tell you, that wasn't the end of the story.

"I will always say I was one of the lucky ones that day," she told The Associated Press earlier this year. "I survived. I don't know how I survived. I've been living my life ever since."

She had stayed out late the night before, celebrating the decision to award the Summer Olympics to London. Having overslept, she didn't reach the car she normally rode. Instead, she just jumped on the train as the doors closed.

She later told an inquest into the terror attacks that she recalled a flash of light and a sensation of being thrown from side to side. She looked up, and saw one of the new sneakers she had just bought. It was bloody, blown off her foot and skewered on a piece of metal. An off-duty policewoman found her, wrapped her leg in a tourniquet, held her hand, moistened her lips with water. She had lost three-fourths of her blood.

Her body swelled to twice its normal size because of her injuries. Her brother and sister saw her in the hospital and told the police it wasn't her.

Wright will tell you that she had help to get through the seven years since 7/7. It's about Martine's team — what she refers to as "Team Me" — her support group of family and friends. It started in the hospital, with her mother, holding her daughter's face in her hands, telling her she could have died or suffered brain damage. But that didn't happen. Martine was still Martine.

Wright saw the impact of the bombs on so many others. Families grieved. The city reeled in shock. She ultimately had to decide: What would it be, Martine?

The answer began with small steps on prosthetic legs. She fell down. But she got back up, again and again.

"When you go through something traumatic in your life ... you sometimes lose who you are," she said. "You're thrown in this completely new world. When it happened to me, it didn't sort of happen overnight, suddenly, an epiphany — Right. I can live my life now. It's a very gradual process."

She learned to fly, took up skiing. She got married, had a gorgeous little boy. But she needed more.

Always athletic, she missed the competitiveness she once experienced at work — that passion for success, the thrill of winning. She became attracted to sitting volleyball because you don't use a wheelchair.

Like volleyball, it has six players to a side and three touches allowed, but the net is lower and players mostly sit on the floor. When Wright is on the court, she isn't thinking about disability.

Plus, at the gym, Wright found camaraderie. Her teammates, too, have their stories — like Samantha Bowen, a veteran who was injured while serving in Iraq. These teammates of yours, they understand.

"It's such a negative thing that happened in my life," Wright said. "But I've gained something so positive. It's a miracle in itself."

No one expects the British team to medal since they are relatively inexperienced.

On Friday, Britain lost 25-9, 25-20, 25-14 to Ukraine, the European champion, with Wright frequently rotating on and off the court before her watching family.
Associated Press
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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