Two weeks ago, I was on my way to a concert at Wembley. Happy and excited as I was driving along through London, (we travelled from south London and was heading to North London) my cousin and I were happily pointing out all of the pretty sights in London.
As we continued our drive, singing along to music and generally in a fantastic mood, we were driving over a flyover and spotted a skyline that was filled with tower blocks that were lit up. All except one. One huge tower was darker than the night sky.
I wasn’t sure exactly where I was, as I was just following my sat nav but this tower was huge and haunting. Something about it unnerved me.
In my head I thought ” What is that… it can’t be Grenfell can it?”
As I got closer I realised it was.
We both fell silent. Our singing stopped. I gulped and said “I think that is Grenfell”.
We got closer and I could see the burnt shell. Towering above us. And I cannot explain the sheer horror I felt. I flinched and gasped at the enormity of it. Overcome with emotion my reflexes kicked in and I shouted “Oh My God.”
I am not an emotional person. I cry perhaps 3 times a year but I cried right there and then.
Just the sight of the tower reduced me to shake and cry. And I was only driving past. It is a feeling that has stayed with me and I cannot describe to people just how horrific it was to see that tower.
Which instantly led me to ask myself “How on earth to people who live next to the tower cope with seeing that every day?”
I didn’t know anyone in that tower. I was just a passerby yet the punch in the stomach I felt by looking at it was very overwhelming.
Imagine seeing that every day?
Imagine seeing it burn!
Imagine if you lost people in that blaze???
At the time I thought ‘why is that tower still in full view, it should be covered up to protect the people living nearby but also out of respect for the people that perished there.’
It is now essentially a gigantic ‘tomb in the sky.’
So I was pleased to hear last week; 4 months after the terrible, horrific events of the Grenfell Tower fire, the authorities have finally decided to cover up the tower in protective material to shield it from the eyes of the public.
But work on this will not be completed until early 2018!!
There are so many reasons why this needs to be done. And so many reasons why this should have started months ago.
No one can really imagine the true horror of witnessing the fire, which was a rather prolonged horrific event that continued for hours.
For those who knew people that lived in the tower, the horror must be beyond any stretch of your worst nightmare.
And to be helpless. For hours.
I would imagine that many of the survivors and witnesses may have already or could, in the future, develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Some of factors that contribute to PTSD are reliving the events and exposure to the place where it happened.
Part of their recovery will be hindered by constantly having to view the tower in all its horrifying enormity every day.
So how can they recover? Why has this not been done sooner.
A month ago I went to The World Transformed Event where I met some Justice 4 Grenfell campaigners. They told us that only 5 families had been rehoused and that there had been around 50 suicide attempts.
Which all points to my guess that there must be hundreds of people suffering from acute PTSD.
I decided to look into it, because let’s face it, the mainstream media have gone quiet over it. All I could find was that the local authority have a page set up advising people to go to their local Mind charity for support. And there is now a community hub to support witnesses and survivors.
But having had to use mental health services for my child recently, I know that the services are massively underfunded and under equipped to deal with the general population. Let alone the unprecedented amount of people suffering after a major tragedy.
Seeing the support that is offered now (and I do not claim to know if everyone has been offered support, or whether it is adequate) I can only hope that this is enough and that this support doesn’t just stop. With austerity raging on it is something we can only hope for. This support will be needed for years to come and sometimes PTSD can be delayed.
So many questions need to be answered, aside from the obvious:
Why are people not being rehoused? And when I say rehoused I mean in permanent , suitable accommodation?
Why has it taken so long to even start covering up the tower?
Or for anyone to even acknowledge that this needed to be done?
Why has the tower that still holds remains of the poor souls that perished inside the tower, not been covered straight away as a mark of respect and to protect the evidence inside the tower from the elements of weather and decay?
When I met those Grenfell campaigners, when I stood at the housing talk and gave a minutes silence to remember the dead, and when I drove past that tower in tears I made a silent promise to them and everyone affected by it:
I will never forget you and I will never stop seeking Justice 4 Grenfell.
And I urge you to all do the same. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr:
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to Justice everywhere.”
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