Pam Warren is a motivational speaker and an author. She is also the survivor of one of the most horrific and memorable train crashes in history. On October 5th, 1999, the world-famous rail accident at Ladbroke Grove killed 31 people and injured 523 more. Pam, who the British press dubbed ‘The Lady in the Mask’, due to the mask she had to wear during recovery from the accident, was seriously wounded and ended up in a coma. At one point her future was uncertain, but she did not only survive, but she turned her life around and has helped countless others do the same. Pam granted me the honour of interviewing her, and she answered these six questions in a tape which I listened to, enraptured. I decided that my audience would likely prefer a written article, and as such, I typed this transcript, which is, in my mind, secondary to the tape. I hope Pam inspires my readers as much as she inspired me, and I am incredibly grateful to both her and her assistant Jill for doing this.
On October 5th, you were nearly killed in a horrific train crash. Did that day change your beliefs and world-views in any way? If so, how?
Yes, the train crash did have a profound effect on me. In as much as before it happened, I was very much a person that was bought up in the Margaret Thatcher era, as in business was everything, making money was everything, and I hardly had any time for my family or friends, which is a source of regret for me. Once the train crash had happened, and I was recovering in hospital I had a little time to think and I suddenly realised the last thought that was going through my head at the time the crash was happening was ‘it’s not been worth it’. and what I’d meant by that was that the life before had not been worth it. I suddenly realised how superfulous that life was. I suddenly realised just how much time I’d wasted on pursuing the goal of money, and I made a promise to myself that if I survived, and recoverd well enough, I would change my whole attitude on life. And now I think I’m a much more gentle person. I always make sure thast my friends and family are given priority, and money is no longer my driver; I find that I get more pleasure from doing things that help other people and make an effect that’s a positive effect for somebody else. And that’s why I suppose I became a professional speaker, as that way I can pass on some of the experiences as well as some of the more pratcial strategies I learned to other people and try and get them to realise that you only get one life and it’s down to you to make the most of it. If you’re unhappy or you suddenly come to realise that there’s more to life than what you’ve got at the moment you need to take the steps thst are necessary to make those changes.
What do you think of the concept of miracles? Do you believe in them?
That’s quite a profound question, actually. I suppose I can’t say that I believe in miracles as immediately springs to mind, because for me miracles are tied up with religion and I’m not very good at organised religions. However, I do believe that life, the world and all you experience is all interwoven with unexplainable things. And quite often, some of those unexplainable things are good, and for the positive. So, yes, I do believe that things happen without you realising or knowing, but I don’t know how they happen or what i would call them. I’m pretty unsure but I do believe that they can happen and I also believe that if a human being has the right attitude or is seeking the answers in the right places they’ll often find them.So that could be something that pulls them out of the most desperate of times and yes, I do believe that we are here to endure and to excel, to do the very best we can and I do believe that there is something around that can help us. If I can give you an example I’ve heard quite often that lots of people- friends and family and others- they think they’re stuck in this mess and can’t see their way past or round it and all of a sudden something will happen that takes their problems away and then they can move on and to me that is a tiny ”miracle”. We can’t explain how it happened but then my thought processes then go, should we be trying to explain it? They’re there, they do benefit us quite often, and maybe we should just be thankful when they happen and accept them.
If you had one piece of advice to give the whole world, what would it be?
Definitely to love each other. I think we forget in this modern life that we all are human beings and it doesnt matter where we are in whatever pecking order or in what community or democracy or non democracy we live in we should always remember that we are all equal and we are all worth something so I would definitely ask the whole world to show a bit more compassion, love and understanding. I know there’s a lotof people who try to push that [message, and] I just wish more people would listen to it. I sometimes do despair abut what I see on the news or hear going on around the world and sometimes you feel powerless to change it but I think that if we all made just a small difference to the immediate few people we come into contact with that would then increase expotentially and maybe the world would become a kinder place.
What personal achievement are you the proudest of?
Oh, there’s a good question as well! I think actually recreating my life, that is a personal achievement that I’m very proud of. The fact that when I look back at what happened during the train crash, how badly hurt I was and the fact that my life was compeltetly ripped up and thrown away by those circumstances, I think that to come back from that and get to where I am now, and be trying to tmake a difference to other peoples’ lives, I think that is one my proudest I’ve always said that when the time comes for me to meet my maker, or to die the next time, what I’ll really be proud of was to be able to look back and think that yes, this time I made the most of what I had and I did some good along the way.
When someone says the word “gratitude”, what immediately springs to mind?
Definitely for me, thankfulness. We should always be thankful. In a way, although it’s difficult, you should be thankful when you open your eyes in the morning because you’re awake and you’ve got your health and you’re able to get up and start doing things! But I know that can be for some much harder than others. I always considered the word gratitude as meaning thankfulness and whether you do that silently or whether you do that verbally to somebody, or whether you do that through actions, that is definitely something I think we should all bear in mind. I actually joined an online group which calls for random acts of kindness and I like their philosophy in this group. It’s not a religion or anything; it’s just an online group that like minded people have joined, from around the world. where each of us every single day just tries to do one act of kindness, or to bring a smile to somebody’s face and again I think the world would be a much nicer place if all of us were doing it.
You are an author and a speaker. When you share your story and your thoughts, what are your aims and goals?
When I am sharing my story I’m using what happened to me more as an example. What I’m actually trying to do when I’m speaking is talk to people and say, ‘look, there are alternative ways of viweing things; there’s never one answer to one problem, or one obstacle, or one difficulty, there are a myriad of alternative solutions ways and round it’. This was somethign I had to learn through my recovery and recreating my life and campaigning against the government. And you very quickly learn that if you’re open enough you can achieve almost anything you set your mind to, and that’s what I’m trying to share, and I then use the actual physical ”what happened” examples to then highlight for people how I then used the strategies I’m passing on to overcome obstacles that most people would find impossible to overcome. So that’s really my main aim and goal, it’s to pass on that knowledge. For some reason I feel it’s important to share what I know with as many as people as possible in the hope that it may make that positive difference in their lives or get them questioning things. I sometimes think again we’re brought up with too much conditioning; we should question more and we should query more and we shouldn’t always accept what the authorities or the law or what other people are telling us without that questioning…
Despite my earlier disclaimer about this article not fitting into the ‘Jewish’ title of my blog, Pam speaks of many overarching moral concepts that even some of the most righteous rabbis found difficult to grasp. Tikkun olam– mending the world- and chesed– loving kindness- are two central Jewish concepts which Pam excels in, proving that no matter what you believe in, so long as you understand the importance of kindness, you can make a positive difference to the world. Many thanks to Pam and Jill for this fascinating and life-changing experience!