Grenfell 14/06/2017

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:

safety sign.jpg

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.

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