I know the smell of fire…a small but damaging one broke out at home when I was young. Now I’m imagining my lovely house as a charred, blackened, unrecognisable space…and several members of my family missing. How would that hole in my life be? Burnt out and destroyed buildings would be normal in war-torn or earth-quake prone countries…but now, in Kensington, west London…an unbelievable (and possibly wholly preventable?) tower-block fire (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-40301289). Prayers to all those hurting as a result of this tragedy.
During a property inspection in east London the day before the fire, and whilst the news was blaring on the TV, I had a chat with a tenant and her friend about the recent terror attacks. They too were surprised that around 20,000 Londoners were killed over the few months of the Blitz of World War II..but I was totally taken aback by their thoughts on the terror attacks. They were absolutely convinced that Members of Parliament (MPs) were behind the attacks and were trying to kill members of the public. Whoa!…I asked them why they would do this, when the first job of any government is to protect the people? They don’t care about us, they said. They are only interested in lining their pockets and collecting their huge MP’s salary (about £75K p.a.). People are angry. Anger can be an engine for change and for justice…I just hope it doesn’t make wrong-minded conclusions seem correct.
It would be so easy to buy into a dire vision of the world…the media is saturated with it. But look. Look…there are volunteers from all over London and the UK that dropped everything and have made their way over to Kensington to help. People giving up their time and bringing their own clothes and food for the newly possession-less. All over the place, there are people being great. Firemen being just awesome. Building inspectors and structural engineers looking to make the tower-block safe for investigators. Predominantly, people do good things. Predominantly, people want to do their best. Predominantly, people want to be their best, provide the best service, make things better. Just ask yourself why they would want to do otherwise. There is no satisfaction or joy in doing less. We are built to always be better, do better, seek better.
On the day of the fire, I was with the children of St. W’s primary school on a tour of a building site, getting excited about a crane that could lift 40 cars. Some of those children will be builders and architects…and their buildings will be safer. After the Great Fire of London in 1666, regulations came in (the London Building Acts) that meant that houses had to be brick-built with parapet walls to stop the spread of fire. We are always making mistakes, making improvements… and working towards better…and that’s what we’ll do now.