The tragedy that unfolded at Grenfell Tower claiming the lives of countless innocent victims has all the hallmarks of a disaster that should never have occurred. As my train pulled into Paddington station last Wednesday I watched with horror from the train window at the tower block burning in the distance. I can’t begin to imagine the distress and trauma that witnesses and victims went through, are going through, and will go through.
As the news unfolded over the hours and days that followed, I was saddened and shocked by the death toll and possible catalogue of errors that caused the fire; however, I was also astounded by the humanity shown by those around me in response to the catastrophic event. Colleagues and residents pulling together to support, help and care for those affected.
I witnessed colleagues working day and night to support victims and residents We received countless offers of help from local organisations; with both residents and the general public turning up at our offices and estates with aid packages for the displaced.
Reflecting on the fire over the weekend, I tried to find a small chink of hope. And its clear that even in the worst tragedies the darkness can be lifted a little by the kindness of strangers. I realised that our organisation, staff, residents and the general public are all intrinsically connected, or in other words we are all part of the community. At Notting Hill our employees are our residents, our residents are our board members, the emergency services live in our properties and we work where our residents live. We live work and raise our families in the same communities.
There has been lots of talk about rich versus poor, Tory versus Labour, London versus Britain, Muslim versus Christian and social versus private. You could say, them versus us; but there is no them, there is no us. We are them and they are us.
I don’t seek to understate the brevity or the horror of Grenfell, only to search for the hope, the humanity on which we can work together to build safer, equitable and open communities, and ensure this never happens again.
In the words of the late Jo Cox, “we are far more united than the things that divide us”