‘These were poor people‘,
is signed – ‘Anisa aged 4’,
on the railings of a church,
rain-soaked flowers in buckets
Haunting and hollow,
lifeless tomb of life-filled people;
the burnt-out black tower block
is a spectre, which looms
‘Remain in your flats‘
Safety advice that did not save.
To our shame, we can forget.
To their horror, those who live
below never will.
Yesterday I visited Grenfell Tower.
The fire that killed 79 (by current official counts) was over a month ago now, but it is still on my mind. It doesn’t feel quite real.
A week ago I was on the train and saw the following sign:
Except that, under the top bullet point, someone had written, ‘WOT? LIKE REMAIN IN YOUR FLAT?’, and those words struck me and nagged at me, and wouldn’t leave me alone. I wondered who had written it. I wondered at their hurt and anger and I wondered at my own detachment from that.
And so I went to Grenfell tower because I wanted to mourn and I didn’t want to let myself be detached. I wanted to acknowledge a loss of life that should not have been. I wanted to pay my respects and to be there to pray in person, and not to shy away because I could.
I wanted to confront the brokenness of a society in which such a disaster is possible. I wanted to think about Farah, who died in the stairwell cradling her six-month old baby. I wanted to grieve and hurt and think about what it’s like to feel the heat of fire and smoke encroach, and to have a realisation that you’ll die.
The world is a broken place.