Winners’ Blogs – Pam Warren
August 16, 2012
Pam Warren turned a disaster in to the most positive thing to ever happen to her. In October 1999, Pam’s life as a financial advisor was turned on its head when she was severely injured in the Paddington Rail Crash, when two trains collided head on at a combined crash speed of 130mph. Not only did she pull through, she underwent scores of operations to help rebuild her badly burned body and endured wearing a plastic mask over her face for 23 hours each day over the ensuing 18 months. She became the public face of the disaster – ‘the lady in the mask’. Following the crash, Pam became a leading spokesperson for improving rail safety. Now, Pam uses her experiences to help others who have been affected by disfigurement or burns and has become an inspiration to many.
Women of the Year
I will always recall the first Women of the Year lunch I attended in 2001 when I was the lucky recipient of the Frink Award. I walked into the room a nervous, over-awed person still sporting my plastic mask on my face and wondering what I had done to deserve being honoured in this way by such an august group of women.
As I took in some of the women in the room my mouth literally dropped open. There were so many amazing women, some famous, some not so much but certainly women I had heard of and read about. Certainly there were many, many women I had admired from afar and, growing up, had aspired to be like. It is not often you get a chance to rub shoulders with some of your lifetime heroines.
Smiles abounded and people came up to me to welcome and chat to me and I could feel some of the nerves ebbing away, enough that I could take in more of the people in the room and start enjoying the whole experience. My mother had accompanied me to the lunch and kept on surreptitiously digging me in the ribs and whispering ‘have you just seen who’s over there….are we dreaming?’
When it was time for me to be given my award I went towards the stage with knees knocking and still in a daze as to why I was being given the award. As Moira Stewart read out a brief explanation of who I was and why I was being given the award, I thought she was talking about someone else and my embarrassment rose as I thought, ‘any minute now they are going to discover I am an imposter, chuck me out and find the real person.’ However, once it was in my hands and I accepted it on behalf of my fellow survivors in the Paddington Survivors Group I felt an enormous sense of pride. I felt it was a recognition of all that we had worked so hard to achieve in improving rail safety and was a nod from my peers and people I so admired that ‘the girl done good.’
One particular woman I do want to mention, who received an award the same year, and with whom I had such an inspirational conversation, is Marie Colvin. A totally charming, unassuming woman with bags of charisma and a passion for her work. We spoke at length on this occasion in 2001, and I afterwards followed her work and read her articles. I was lucky enough to meet her again at the Women of Year Lunch in 2011, where we were discovered once again heads together, catching up and me hearing of her planned trip to Syria. Her death whilst out there recently was a terrible loss and I will forever be saddened that I will never have the chance to chat with her again.
So what for my future? Over the intervening years since 2001 I have overcome many, many obstacles and am now in the fortunate position of being constantly excited about life. I grab new experiences, I try to pay back socially as a thank you for my second chance and I hope, the next time I have to meet my maker, I’ll be able to look back and say ‘Wow…now that was fun!’