Skip to main content

Grenfell Tower One Year On: the black and sodium hours


Awake to watercolour-clear morning,
broad-brushed by faded
amber conflagration
seen from the kitchen window.

But through the lost,
the black and sodium hours
of the night,
cries for help,
desperate supplications shot skyward
into the never-silent hum of
the North Kensington sky, and

the arrhythmic beating
heart
of Community
watch helplessly
the monolith
shed its murderous
skin,
unshackling souls
taken too soon.


In the early hours of June 14th 2017, a devastating fire broke out in Grenfell Tower, North Kensington. The final death toll was set at 72. From the early hours immediately after the fire into the following days and nights, it was the local residents and community groups who coordinated the relief effort; ordinary people responding in an extraordinary way.

That day at work, I will never forget the sense of relief at seeing all of my students sat there in front of me, some of whom I knew to live in the immediate vicinity of Grenfell Tower.

As I walked the streets of Ladbroke Grove with good friends around 11pm, later that same day, feeling helpless, all I saw around me was the best of humanity. At Acklam Village, I met former students I had taught many years before, now grown men, sorting supplies into the small hours; women who'd been there all day without a break sifting through thousands of donations; men still carrying loaded boxes in and out, filled to the brim with further supplies.

Small community centres like Al-Hasaniya Moroccan Women's Centre, larger venues like Acklam Village, and the largest of religious centres like the Al Manaar Mosque, played their individual parts, all demonstrating what true community spirit was.

A year later, many families are still in temporary accommodation, some are still in hotels, an inquest into the causes of the fire has begun and the Prime Minister has recently expressed her 'regret' for her part in the handling of the immediate aftermath.

This tragedy will profoundly affect the victims' families, the survivors and the North Kensington community forever. In the wider West London community, the Grenfell Tower tragedy will stay forever etched onto our collective consciences.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a n-anamacha.


This poem above was written the day after the fire and is just a raw recollection of my thoughts at the time. I know it's not much, but I dedicate it to the victims and their families, the survivors and those struggling to come to terms with everything, and to those community workers who still tirelessly do everything they can for the area and community they love.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

From a Crooked Rib by Nuruddin Farah

I stumbled across Nuruddin Farah’s novels when searching for something written by a Somali author. Perhaps due to the conflict that has raged for years in Somalia, it is very difficult to find much from Somali writers published in English.
From a Crooked Rib was published in 1970 and tells the story of Ebla, a young, orphaned, illiterate nomadic girl, who runs away from her encampment. She takes the decision to leave upon learning of her Grandfather’s intention to marry her off to an older man within their Jes (a group of families living in an encampment together).
She firstly escapes to a town, Belet Amin, where she finds her cousin and his pregnant wife. She also finds a guide and confidante in a character known only as the widow. Things seem settled until, yet again, Ebla finds her freedom compromised by a male character – this time her cousin, whose wife and child Ebla has been nursing.
In her haste she leaves Belet Amin with the widow’s nephew, bound for Mogadishu – still called

Iconic Places: Cliffs of Moher, Ireland.

On the train to Galway, I had the suspicion that something was going on. I had been talking about almost every topic under the sun with two men from Athenry for the majority of the journey out of Dublin Heuston station: Brexit, health, whiskey, the Irish border and brands of tea.
All around us, there were young Irish guys and girls, drinking vociferously and listening to music out of Bluetooth speakers. No one seemed to notice. Other passengers seemed to just ignore it. I was beginning to think that Ionród Éireann (Irish Rail) might be some strange mobile party company. After all, it was only a Tuesday afternoon.
Arriving at Galway Ceannt station, the train unleashed a herd of youngsters onto the platform resembling a migratory stampede of wildebeest. What was going on? 
In the intermittent rain, I walked towards Salthill, a small resort on the outskirts of Galway City and into the Nest Boutique Hostel.
“Ah,” the receptionist said, “it’s Donegal Tuesday.”
“But we’re in Galway,” I res…

Wild Nights: Camping Britain's Extremes by Phoebe Smith

It’s been nearly two years that I’ve been talking about my desire to go wild camping. So far I’ve bored my parents intermittently and failed to convince any friends to join me.
I chanced on an article on the Guardian’s website by Phoebe Smith and realised that wild camping was an actual thing that people actually did. In my own inimitable style, I set about obsessively researching experts, equipment, locations and guides – a process that is still continuing at the time of writing.
With this in mind, I looked up Smith’s book Wild Nights: Camping Britain's Extremes. In the book, one of a few that she has penned on the subject of wild camping, she documents her own personal challenge to sleep in a number of extreme places: furthest points of the compass on the UK mainland, the highest/lowest places above/below sea level and the remotest in terms of distance from any roads.
Her story begins in Glencoul, Scotland with what should be a beautiful, if innocuous hike to a bothy (an empty…