Grenfell Enquiry - My Thoughts

The Grenfell Tower fire enquiry opened today and in coverage I have been reading I saw a quote from the chairman, Sir Martin Moore-Bick who said the sight of the 24-storey tower engulfed in flames is indelibly printed on all those who saw it.

I saw it.

Travelling past on a train after a blogging job the train fell silent as commuters, party goers, tourists, shoppers, people from all walks of life, spotted the grim glow of the flames still ravaging the tower after dark.

In the days following the tragedy we saw the tower again, blackened, standing stark, dark and skeleton-like against the sky.

I would go further than Sir Martin and say anyone who saw that tower even after the flames had long been extinguished would have the image indelibly printed on their memory.

My children who were in the car with me were quite distressed and we had a serious conversation about why it might have happened and how awful it was.

We had to reassure them that we were unlikely to ever be in that danger, living as we do in a two -storey house with lots of exits. We did however rehearse and renew our fire drill so the children would know what to do if the worst happened.

Of course no amount of kitchen fire extinguishers, damp towels and crawling to avoid rising smoke would have saved the victims of the Grenfell disaster.

There are a few moments in my life which stand out, news-wise.  Even though I am a trained journalist the biggies are not the articles I wrote but those I experienced as a member of the public.

I remember waking up to the news Princess Diana was dead. I'm not a royalist but I was still shocked to see that pile of tangled metal. They seem untouchable don't they, the royal family? Or they did before that event.

I remember the explosion at Buncefield oil depot which woke me up at just after 6am on Sunday December 11, 2005, living as we do only about 10 miles away. The explosion apparently registered at 2.5 on the Richter scale and to this day I'm not sure if the sound or the tremor woke me up. Thankfully and miraculously no-one died.

I remember 9/11. I remember mindlessly watching daytime programmes on a tiny TV as I did the washing up before my evening shift at work and then abandoning the dishes to watch literally with my jaw dropped as events unfolded.

I am trained to stay calm, emotionless and uninvolved but I defy anyone to watch that footage, even today without tears falling.

Grenfell was like that. I didn't know anyone directly involved but the tragedy moved me deeply. Such senseless loss without even an evil alien terrorist to blame.

In my opinion faceless bureaucracy and financial restrictions which failed to place the value of human life over budget restraints left those people with no hope of survival. No idealism, religion or passionate beliefs. Just penny pinching and paper shuffling.

Heads will roll I'm sure, people will lose their jobs and reassuring noises will be made about cladding and such like.

But if you, like me, have seen that picture of that poor stillborn baby Logan Gomes and his sobbing parents, the photographs of people's friends and family who died in a horrific and often slow and painful way and read the reports of last phone calls and messages from those who knew they were doomed, no result from the enquiry will make anything better.

For once I am not posting a picture with this post. The picture is in my head, a cameo of shocked faces of people on a train who couldn't quite believe what they were seeing, and the angry glow of flames against London's night sky.

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