Lancashire student Travis Frain survived last year’s Westminster Bridge attack. Now he tells Fiona Finch why lessons must be learned from his and other survivors’ experiences. and why he’ll be part of a special conference this week.
Travis Frain should, by rights, be concentrating on the final year of his degree.
But on Friday the Edge Hill University student from Lancashire will be a world away from academia, helping with a pioneering Survivors for Peace conference in Warrington.
As a survivor of last year’s Westminster Bridge attack, he has stepped up to ensure other victims of terrorist attacks get the help they need now and in the future.
Four pedestrians and a policeman lost their lives at or following the Bridge attack when Khalid Masood drove at passers-by and then ran in to New Palace Yard.
Many more suffered injury in the 82 second attack which ended when Masood was fatally shot.
Travis, who is studying history and politics remained in hospital for eight days after being injured during what should have been a routine study trip to the Houses of Parliament with classmates.
This year on March 22, the anniversary of the attack, Travis went back to the bridge.
He recalled: “I just stood there on the bridge at the time of the anniversary. The bridge wasn’t even closed. People were just taking selfies.”
Journalists and photographers were also there and so too were other survivors, whom Travis had never met.
He said: “It was quite bizarre - there was a gathering of people who had never met before but we were all affected by the attack. They were all doing the same thing.
“The real kick in the guts was that there was a service in the House of Commons for MPs and Lords.
“ I was quite good friends with my MP and he said ‘I can try and get you in if you want.’ You shouldn’t feel you’re intruding in a service dedicated towards you and people affected.”
It was not his first return visit - he was taken back just a few days after the attack when, he said,: “it weirded me out” to see life going on as normal .”
For Travis the anniversary visit reinforced for him how much more could and should be done to help victims of terrorism as they endeavour to get on with the rest of their lives: “There was never any commemorative event on the anniversary (for survivors). There was no community outpouring of support for Westminster.”
PM Theresa May laid a commemorative wreath on the anniversary.
Travis compares how Manchester reacted to victims of the Ariana Grande Manchester Arena concert bombing and how Mayor Andy Burnham took a lead.
The conference, on what is designated United Nations International Peace Day, aims to give survivors of terrorism the opportunity to share their experiences.
Travis hopes it will also kick-start a global network of survivors who will campaign and work for freedom, justice and peace.
The 20-year-old, whose family home is in Darwen, is now a trustee of the Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Peace Foundation.
The charity was set up following the deaths of Tim and Johnathan who were victims of the IRA bombing in Warrington in 1993. It is both a memorial to the boys and works nationally and internationally for peace and non-violent conflict resolution.
The conference will be held at the Foundation’s Peace Centre in Warrington (pictured left) and will be co-hosted by One World Strong, an organisation set up by survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing.
Travis said: “The conference came from a meeting at the home of the Deputy US Ambassador in London.
“There was a group of us there from the Peace Foundation and One World Strong,”
The meeting brought together survivors of terrorist atrocities from countries including Canada, Spain and France.
Travis said: ”We talked about creating a network of people globally affected by this sort of incident.
“It was decided the best way to kickstart this would be to have a conference.”
Travis stressed he has had just “a very small part” in helping create the event. But he has a very big reason for taking part.
He said: “After the attack I found that the Peace Foundation was the only thing in place to support myself and my family.
“I became a Trustee as a way of giving something back and I’m delighted to have the chance to raise awareness of the charity through events like Survivors for Peace.”
He said the aftermath of the attack exposed the lack of support available for those affected by the horrific attack.
Travis said he ended up initially paying for physiotherapy and counselling out of his Student Loan, having been told there would be a 10 week waiting time for psychological support”which seems quite archaic considering what I’d gone through.”
The Foundation, in contrast, offered thoughtful support in practical ways, such as letter writing, advocacy, phone support and accompanying him to appointments. This care came through the Centre’s Survivors Assistance Network.
Travis attended the ongoing inquest into the Bridge victims for just one day because of the cost of train fares and is surprised survivors were not called to give evidence.
Three other Edge Hill students, including Owen Lambert from Morecambe, were also injured in the attack.
Travis said: “It hasn’t been easy. But we’ve made sure university wasn’t affected. We all did our exams for better or worse. We’re all still here at the university.
It has been difficult but we’ve pulled through.”