We all woke up on the 15thJune 2017 in shock and horror. All of us finding out in different ways. Some found out through texts. Others through the news. I found out through Snapchat.
Tower block. Inferno. West London. 21stcentury.
We are now 2 years on. But why does googling ‘tower block fire London’ bring more than one incident? More than one option? And dates that are way too close to comfort… Enough is enough. History is repeating itself.
Almost exactly 2 years later, Gooch House in Hackney caught fire in the early hours of the morning. Eerily mirroring Grenfell’s fire, Muslim worshippers returning from prayers in Ramadan noticed the hazard and fearlessly brought sleeping residents to safety.
Yet again, the local community have had to take matters into their own hands and pick up the pieces from the governments neglect. Wasn’t Grenfell a big enough warning in itself?
Watching the BBC’s documentary about the origins of the Lancaster West estate was another painful reminder that history keeps on repeating itself. There is a lengthy record of neglect in North Kensington with Notting Dale’s past as the ‘worst slum in Victorian London’.
An abandoned plan was the original proposal for the Lancaster West estate to be built as an impressive community space. However, this vision was rejected due to being ‘too expensive’.
This plan being discarded reflects how the council spending was never prioritised for the lower-income individuals of North Kensington.
The persistent warnings in the Grenfell Action Group blog also presents the disaster as being somewhat predictable and ominous. The community voiced their concerns to indifferent ears.
“only a catastrophic eventwill expose the ineptitude and incompetence of our landlord”
The response is simply too little, too late.
With Grenfell’s past in mind, it’s vital to also look forward. It’s important to question how the promise for 3 weeks to house all of the survivors has become almost 2 years.
We must ask why 17 families still remain in temporaryaccommodation. We must ask why traumas have been disregarded and families are being insensitively relocated to tower blocks despite firm protestations against this.
We must ask why the death toll is ridden with scepticism. We must ask why the healing process is being made more difficult in a government that promised to pay for its mistakes. We must question the silence in the aftermath of screams.
The lack of closure for the Grenfell tragedy essentially makes it impossible to fully move.
We’re neglecting the Grenfell victims who still haven’t received full justice. Theresa May is resigning without resolving Brexit, but more importantly, she is also leaving Grenfell unresolved.
It takes more than lighting up Grenfell in green to show solidarity. Although there’s a heart on the building now, the attitude towards Grenfell was anything but love, this love is belated.
If we cared more about the people than the look of the building- a lot could be done. Especially since it was the appearance of the building that prompted this disaster. How can we wake up from the nightmare that London is becoming?
Grenfell was a manifestation of the destructive nature of the gentrification of London and society’s obsession with aestheticising the city, regardless of the consequences, regardless of death.
£9 million of refurbishment was spent for those looking at the building rather than those living in it.
So where do we go from here? As an individual from West London who regularly sees this tower from the distance, I am made to understand how mentally draining constantly seeing this building can be.
Although forgetting this tragedy isn’t the way forward, this physical reminder can be extremely traumatic for survivors and other Londoners.
Dialogue must be our weapon. We must never stop speaking, even after a resolution has been found. We must shout so that all the ‘tower block London’ google searches become outdated.
Perhaps a memorial site would be a productive move to promote healing. We need to keep Grenfell alive rather than a supressed memory that we flee from.
As the years pass, will Grenfell be commemorated in a similar way to 9/11? Is more recognition given to 9/11, whereby the entire world has the date of this disaster memorised, due to the largely White, wealthy demographic of the victims?
However, despite this catastrophe, it has created dialogue and a better direction for social change regarding the mistreatment of the under-privileged in council homes in Kensington and in the UK in general.
…They didn’t tell you that dreams include nightmares too.
That light can turn you blind.
That life is something you’re not given but must find.
That tears aren’t enough to burn out fires.
We are still falling.
It reached for the skies.
But at least for them,
Heaven was in sight.
-excerpts from a poem titled Concrete Castle
Sagal Gabay via Instagram