Tuesday marked 34 months since the Grenfell Tower fire. There was, of course, no organised silent walk, but many will have walked in silence, their thoughts drawn again, as so often, to that fateful day in 2017.
The third anniversary moves nearer, and we naturally start to anticipate the feelings it will stir. But on 14th June 2020, there will be no mass gathering in North Kensington.
This is a sacred day for the community, when we remember those lost, remember each other, reconnect and briefly recapture the spirit that served us so well during those long, hot days and nights in 2017.
The official response to the horror at the Tower can be characterised as a dereliction of duty. Where it existed at all, it often faltered and sometimes exacerbated the crisis. But this community did not hesitate or fail. The outpouring of love during those days is something that will live on forever in the memories of all who were there, to be passed on to our children and grandchildren with pride, sure that this was the way humans should respond to a human tragedy.
And in this current crisis, it is clearer than ever that the North Kensington community is far ahead of those that still presume superiority and a right to rule over the nation.
Under the oppression of lockdown, many in North Kensington suffer with health and housing issues, with poverty. Re-traumatised, minds are flooded with memories of the fire, unease haunts our dreams and waking lives.
Death always lurks in the shadows, but we have a heightened awareness of it now, just as we did then.
For 34 months, many, or more likely, most of us have toiled with the shame and guilt that accompany trauma.
In these new COVID circumstances, the wisdom of the Chairman of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry to arrange proceedings so that attributions of guilt would be delayed for years must be questioned. Opinions on that are for another article, but it is important to acknowledge here that the pandemic has paused the Inquiry’s hearings, thereby extending an already unnecessarily long period of limbo.
This new delay comes as the full impact of the disaster trauma kicks in for thousands of affected individuals. It takes between two and three years for the full experience of trauma to begin to manifest following an event on the scale of the fire. Easily, imperceptibly triggered, widespread trauma makes mutual support so vital.
The thought of not being together on 14th June is almost unbearable. Nothing can adequately replace the hugs, the connections and the power and comfort of the shared, silent experience. Every individual experiences so much each 14th June, the intensity eased perhaps by a shared feeling of decency and humanity rising within ourselves and in our community…an indescribable, ethereal mix of raw vulnerability and strength
If the thought of not being able to be physically together to mark the occasion in June hurts, you can perhaps take solace in knowing that we were the ones who were there for each other in 2017, we responded with love, and we are ready to do so again. Many already are in the current crisis. Be certain that this humanity can be your comfort and that you can give and receive when the time comes.
There will be light in the darkness, and it will emanate from the North Kensington community.
By Tom Charles @tomhcharles