David Gardner limped toward the subway on this muggy London afternoon holding the small hand of his 4-year-old daughter. His wife, Angela, and their 9-year-old son trailed behind, each with a ticket in their pockets for the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Olympics.
But they would rather not have them.
It's not that they're not excited to attend. Quite the opposite, actually. Each wears a newly purchased London 2012 t-shirt, and they feel privileged to have received $1,600 tickets without paying for them. But Gardner and his family are going to the ceremony because he was a victim, and because of a promise made to him as he lay in a hospital bed seven years ago.
On the morning of July 7, 2005, Gardner woke up as the rest of the country did: still celebrating London's being awarded the 2012 Olympics the night before. He dropped his young son at nursery school, got on the subway and, after a quick carriage change, sat down on a train at the Edgeware Road station. He usually stands, but on that day took a seat to read a well-marked copy of Julius Caesar, a play he was directing the following week. As the train left the station and entered a tunnel, Mohammad Sidique Khan detonated a suicide vest.
"I just heard this pop -- this extraordinary explosion that seemed like a balloon bursting, something as banal as that. I remember flying through the air… I always felt like Alice in Wonderland, going down the rabbit hole. Wondering if you land alive or dead," he said, closing his eyes as he recalls the memory. "I landed and felt myself all over and seemed to be all right, until I felt this sort of this area to my left, and I've always described it as this muddy, bloody, mess -- and I said, that's me. That must be me. That's must be my leg."
When Gardner looked down, he saw the severed arm of another passenger resting on his other leg. But he survived, and he was lucky to. His leg was badly mangled and had to be amputated.
The July 7, 2005 bombings -- known as the 7/7 attacks -- were the worst acts of terrorism on British soil, killing 53 and injuring more than 700.
Gardner lay on the floor of the subway car for 45 minutes before help arrived. Fellow passengers -- including a man named Jason Rennie, who was also injured -- kept him alive. The two had never met before.
"While I was down there, I was saying to Jason, give my love to my wife. And he was an extraordinary character," Gardner recalled. "He sort of said, 'Don't talk like that. I don't want you to talk like that. You'll be fine, David, and I'll see you in Julius Caesar when you do it.' And he did."
Eventually, paramedic Jane Pitkin arrived and stabilized him.
"I wonder how much longer I could have gone," Gardner said.
After being taken to a hospital, Gardner said the British government made him a promise as he lay in bed: He would go to the Olympics.
So seven years and two weeks later, Gardner, now 57, helps his daughter onto the subway train on the way to the Olympic Park. Her name is Alice Mary Jane Gardner.
"She's very proud and I'm very proud that my daughter has her name -- Jane Pitkin, one of my saviors, the one who saved my life," Gardner said.
It's no mistake that Gardner is traveling to the stadium -- about 45 minutes east of his home in Northwest London -- on the subway, which is known as the tube here. He said that as much as he could, he tried to keep his life the same as it was before the attack.
"I always feel if that you don't get the tube again because of what happened, what are you saying? Are you saying that every time all those millions of people get on the tube, they're taking a risk? And I don't like to think that," he says. "I like to think that on the whole, this doesn't happen often. And hopefully will never happen again."
That hope is being put to the test starting tonight. The London Olympics are one of the largest terror targets in the world, and the city has spent $2 billion to try and secure them.
Gardner admitted today that he was nervous. But he is proud of himself and his family for getting this far.
"We will have something to remember," he says, "for the rest of our lives."