Sisters tell of pain, faith

Two Tennessee sisters say their Christian faith brought them through the ordeal

Staff WriterJuly 23, 2005 

As two sisters injured in the deadly London terrorist bombings left the hospital, they expressed sorrow about the most recent attacks on the city and said they would use their new fame to talk about how their Christian faith carried them through the ordeal.

Emily and Katie Benton, college students from Knoxville, Tenn., told reporters at Duke Hospital on Friday that they don't harbor any hatred for the terrorists who blew up three London subway cars and a double-decker bus July 7.

"So far, I haven't had a moment of anger toward the bombers," said Katie, 21. "I really feel pity. For somebody to be so lost and so misled to think that that was [in] any way productive, it just kills me that somebody is that misled and that misinformed and could possibly think that that kind of senseless violence does anything positive whatsoever."

Flanked by their mother, Patty Benton, and a team of doctors, nurses and other health-care workers, the sisters spoke with the media Friday morning. Emily was upright in a mobile hospital bed. Katie was in a wheelchair.

The sisters stressed that they try not to relive the attacks that left 56 people dead and 700 injured. "I don't think dwelling on that time would be very helpful at all," Katie said.

Katie, an aspiring veterinarian at the University of Tennessee, was in London after spending nearly a month in Kenya with a group helping locals learn how to protect crops from wild animals. Emily, 20, was on break from her studies at Pellissippi State Technical Community College in Knoxville.

The two met up in London on July 6 for what was supposed to be a weeklong vacation. They went to the theater their first night there.

The next morning, Katie, the more outgoing of the sisters, was raring to get out for a day of sightseeing. She tried to awaken her sister early, but Emily was not jolted into action until an alarm clock fell out of a top bunk bed and hit her in the head.

With day passes for the Tube, the two set out for the Tower of London. They got on and off one wrong train before descending into the Edgware Road station. Even then, they were not sure they were on the right track.

"We just had time to sit down, and the train just took off," Emily said. "We're sitting there, and the next second everything was black."

The bomb went off 10 feet away. Shrapnel, glass and debris flew through the air. The sisters thought they were on fire.

"I felt like I was being electrocuted," Emily said. "I thought I was going to die."

Once the dust settled and the two realized they were alive, they began to take stock. A woman one seat over was dead. Injured passengers were on each side. Windows were blown out, and black soot covered everything.

"The first thing we did was just check out each other and see how we were both doing," Emily said. "I didn't understand that a bomb had gone off."

After several days in London hospitals, Duke helped arrange for a transatlantic transport of the sisters and their mother, who got to their bedside within a day of the attacks.

Emily suffered the most severe injuries. She lost skin and bones on her left foot and had a fractured right hand. Shrapnel wounds on Katie's right foot exposed tendons and bones. Each had an eardrum blown out, and Katie suffered nerve damage that could result in permanent loss of hearing in one ear.

At Duke, the sisters have been tended to by surgeons with expertise in soft-tissue transfer. Emily has undergone three surgeries. Katie has undergone two. Emily is expected to return to Duke in several weeks for bone-grafting.

The sisters were saddened to learn of the explosions this week that sent shudders through London again. But they did not suffer flashbacks. "It just seems very far removed from me now," Katie said. "I feel so horrible for the city of London."

Physicians who have gotten to know the sisters describe them as resilient women who will get on with their lives and turn their experience into a positive one rather than dwelling on the downsides.

Katie, who describes herself as an "obsessive-compulsive journaler," has been taping her thoughts because her writing hand is bandaged. She wants to remember all of the details for a book she plans to write.

"What I really want to come across in the book is the Lord was sovereign in all of this," Katie said.

Staff writer Anne Blythe can be reached at 932-8741 or ablythe@newsobserver.com.

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