We may be the careless brunch-eating generation, but hell, never in the history of time have we seen so much love and compassion.
I, like many people around me, was truly shocked and heartbroken when I woke up to the news that a fire had spread at Grenfell Tower in West London. The videos looked like something out of movie, the stories described some twisted reality that, put very simply, didn’t feel real in a first world country. Very early on, it was reported that the fire was started by a faulty fridge. Where was this information coming from? Shortly after, other theories started coming up on the news, so it was no longer certain that this so-called faulty fridge was the cause.
I barely slept that night, and jumped in the community bandwagon with some friends, going to Latymer Community Church to help where we could. We carried boxes, sorted through clothing and food and met dozens of other volunteers who so kindly donated goods, money and time to the cause. I saw one Red Cross member who told us to put on masks because there was still debris falling from the tower; apart from that, I didn’t really understand who was in charge – was it the guy who told me to bring all the cans to one side, or the one who asked us to set food on the tables to give out to other volunteers? Before I knew it, people were asking me for guidance, like I had done with the first two. And then, those same people were doing exactly the same with newcomers. So really, it was just a very disorganised, organic process. No one who leads. I like that. But then you hear that the residents themselves are praising us for our loving chaos, and getting really angry that no one from the council is there to help.
One woman asked us for new underwear – gosh, where did we put the women’s underwear box again? She tells us that it is for a woman from the building who left the messy backyard of the church, probably feeling super overwhelmed. The most basic thing that you do everyday and yet these people don’t have it anymore – you take these things for granted.
Nearby shops – Primark, Poundland, supermarkets – they ran out of stock. No joke. This is London we’re talking about here; there is so much demand for products, they’re pretty well stocked, yet over the last few days, they ran out of stuff to sell. Then you hear that the PM doesn’t even meet the victims, that 70 people were brought to safety (if being in hospital can be classified as safe) and there are 9 people dead, 12 people, then 17 people dead, many more unaccounted for. You meet people in the street who are putting posters up of missing people, others asking if there any news, the last they heard of their friend was at 4am and then they stopped replying/the phone went dead. What are you supposed to tell them? People’s hope is never ending and frankly, a little heartbreaking sometimes.
Surely there is a moment when people have to ask – where is everyone who should be in charge? Why aren’t people being told more? I assumed it wasn’t on the media, but that families and friends were being kept updated, if not on the whereabouts of their loved ones, of the progress being made, at the bare minimum. But they weren’t. And then all the things that could have been avoided. People get angry and protests start, because no one can stop a Londoner. I saw lots of local people, but I also met a lot of people coming from all ends of the city, from all faiths and nationalities. London looked like a small town where everyone says ‘Good Morning’ to strangers, everyone talks openly and everyone has one goal – to help the community heal. My friends Juliette and Monica have been going there every day, before work, after work, and forget about having days off for them.
It was so shocking to see the burnt tower. I didn’t take any photos. There was a moment when I wanted to; but then it didn’t feel right, like you might be disrespecting a tragedy that is in front of your eyes.
And then I get home and read about the man “whose faulty fridge started the fire”. I’m not even gonna share the link, but you don’t have to think too much to know it came from The Sun and The Daily Mail. What a f*cking disgraceful piece of journalism. Where do I start? The mugshot-looking photo that has made the headlines, the other photos where this poor man is on holiday, all with a caption saying he started the fire, the fact that they tried to reach out to him regarding his fridge and he – obviously – denied to comment, the fact that they mention his nationality, the invasion of privacy, the interruption of his grieving… Then I got upset. And like me, many other people were complaining in the comments section of their facebook page. So we made a formal complaint to The Independent Press Standards Association. I’m not sure what is going to happen, but I really hope they put the article down. Now more articles are coming up, where this man is seen as the hero instead, because he woke some neighbours up. Trying to turn this terrible, distasteful article into something that won’t come across as discriminating or disrespectful. I tend to be very understanding but this type of thing just doesn’t make sense to me. Some other journalist pretended to be friends with a victim to get an interview and thankfully the NHS has made a formal complaint about it.
So complain about this, don’t let sensationalism thrive, don’t turn this into a witch hunt, like someone said online. And above all, give what you can – hope, prayers, money, food, clothing, time… Keep showing the world what love and compassion look like. In the city where everyone stares at the floor in the tube, famous for being hostile and self-entitled, in a country that chose Brexit, yet when something like this happens, all you see is love. Not one single person cared who they were talking to or being pared with – kids, teenagers, adults, elderly, muslims, christians, jewish, atheists, who cares. No one cared. All I saw was humanity, everyone stripped off any prejudice, because something like this does make you feel like you’re nothing without other people, one moment you’re here and the other you’re gone. And when it hits close to home… well that could have been you or a loved one.
So let your voice be heard. Denounce poor behaviour. London is a city of diversity, of love, of community. They can’t shut people up, this type of journalistic conduct needs to end. The media need to look at themselves in the mirror because disrespectful articles and fabricated or filtered news are not tolerated anymore.