On the day of the bombings, Katie Benton, 21, and her sister, 20-year-old Emily Benton, were sightseeing in London and had no idea if they had found the right subway line, but they had a pass to ride the "tube" all day, so Katie and Emily Benton figured they'd get to the Tower of London eventually.
Then the bomb went off.
"There was no fireball -- it was just so not Hollywood," Katie Benton said. "(Hollywood) really has no idea what a bomb is like."
Exploding only 10 feet to their right, the terrorist's bomb tore apart the subway car, flinging the Benton sisters to the floor in a haze of shattered glass, smoke and blood. The woman just one seat to their right was killed.
"When they opened their eyes, they were sitting on the floor in front of their seat clinging to each other," said Patty Benton, the sisters' mother.
The sisters' trip to London was the culmination of a summer abroad for Katie Benton, who arrived in Kenya in early June to work with a group helping locals learn to protect their crops from wildlife. Emily Benton joined her sister the day before the attacks in London, and the pair planned to vacation for a week before returning to Tennessee.
The sisters lost their passports in the explosion and had to be interviewed by Scotland Yard to get out of the country.
Finally, they were taken to Duke University Medical Center. Emily Benton suffered the most severe injuries: broken bones and lost skin on her left foot and a fractured right hand. Katie Benton suffered shrapnel wounds in her right foot that exposed tendons and bones. Both suffered some hearing damage from the blast.
"My foot looks like it got attacked by a shark," Emily Benton said. "I don't know, I'm so happy to have my foot that I don't really mind. I have a nasty scar on my arm. It's like a souvenir, you know. Every time I look at that ... it's a part of your life."
Both said they have yet to awaken with self-pity or hatred for the attackers. They see their wounds as "souvenirs" and believe the experience has only served to strengthen their Christian faith and their appreciation for what they have.
"I just want to emphasize it's not that Emily and I are so strong," Katie Benton said. "It's that the Lord is so strong in our lives. He's carried us through this from the moment we got on the train."
Always close, the sisters said that having each other to lean on helped ease the pain and anxiety. They say it strengthened their bond.
"When we have trouble, we can talk to each other," Emily Benton said. "We both understand what we went through."
Both sisters said they expect to return to London in the future.
When they go back, Katie Benton said she would not hesitate to again venture into the Underground. Emily, meanwhile, said, "I don't think I'll ever ride a subway again."
For now, the sisters are focused on returning to college this fall and seeing their friends and family.
Katie Benton, a student at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, where she is studying veterinary medicine, may have permanent hearing loss, doctors said.
"This will be with me the rest of my life," she said. "It's changed everything. It's an adjusting process. Just like I will learn to hear out of one ear, I will learn to live with everything else that's gone on."
Emily Benton, who will return to Duke in a few weeks for surgery on her foot, planned to attend Pellissippi State Technical Community College, also in Knoxville, but expects to take online classes until she heals more.
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