Anniversaries naturally provoke reflection. We contemplate our advancing age on birthdays and we consider a new resolution with the new year. But some anniversaries, like Armistice Day are there to remind us and to prompt us to reflect with sadness on past events in an effort to ensure they never recur. This weekend saw the third anniversary of the Grenfell tragedy and many mourned the premature loss of 72 lives in what is likely to be judged as a preventable disaster.
I had the recent privilege to serve on the Secretary of State’s task force, set up to review and scrutinise plans for recovery from this terrible event and in this role I met many of the survivors and bereaved and many local community leaders. As you would expect these are ordinary people living ordinary lives many of whom conduct themselves with extraordinary dignity in light of such horrific experiences.
As part of the work on the task force I met people involved with the Hillsborough Families support group and those involved in the recovery from the Utoya Island shootings in Norway in 2011. Each tragedy has its own characteristics but also there are common elements. Each of the families started the day with no knowledge of what lay ahead. Each tragedy has lessons that must be learned and justice that must be served. Grenfell is no exception. Emotions are still raw for those involved, particularly as the wheels of justice both in terms of the criminal investigation and the public enquiry, turn very slowly and have been extended by the Pandemic.
Whilst this justice will be delivered at some point in the future and blame will be apportioned to those who were at fault, it is vital that the housing sector continues to respond to the emergent findings to ensure that we never see another Grenfell. Three years on we must once again remember and reflect on this tragedy and lend our support to the survivors and bereaved families in the search for justice.
One of the other lessons from catastrophic tragedies is that the healing process takes a long time. The grief of the Hillsborough families was extended as the South Yorkshire Police sought to avoid responsibility. It took 30 years for the truth to out for the Hillsborough families. We cannot allow the same to happen at Grenfell.
The resonant plea in the special memorial film streamed live on You Tube over the weekend, was we cannot forget this tragedy. I suggest you find time to watch the film to remind yourself of the human cost both on the night and in legacy. In Kipling’s words, you should watch this, “lest we forget”.
The Grenfell groups have 3 simple demands Truth, Justice and Change. It is all our responsibilities to help them get what they ask for.
Written by Chris Wood, Group Director.