The terrible tragedy in Kensington last week caused me to once again ponder about the uncertainty and fragility of life. It was the second most horrific event in London this month following the June 4th London Bridge terror attack and the Finsbury Park terror attack the other day. In all three London atrocities, and particularly the blaze that ravaged the 24-storey residential building in west London, really did hit too close to home than I might want to admit, literally and figuratively, the realisation that a disaster can happen without an apparent warning.
On the 4th of June, eight people were killed and forty eight were injured when three men ploughed pedestrians with a van at London Bridge before slashing Londoners and tourists alike at Borough Market. And then the Grenfell Tower blaze occurred ten days later; seventy nine people had been killed (as of today’s count), many people are still being treated at hospital, and no one knows for sure how many more remain unaccounted for. Then five days later Londoners once again woke up to another terrible news — the Finsbury Park terror attack that killed one person and injured 10 people.
I could not even begin to imagine what the survivors as well as the victims’ families are going through right now. It must be a dreadful experience. Some have lost not just a family member and/or friends but also their homes and possessions. Just the thought of it sent chills down my spine.
It was wonderful though to hear the stories that people shared — the survivors who revealed their dramatic escape as well as the people who helped the victims. How the emergency services arrived quickly and risked their own lives to save others. How the doctors, nurses and other medical staff worked round the clock to help those severely injured. How the neighbours and strangers from across England came together to distribute relief goods and reach out to the evacuees. There are other tales of tragedy and heroism following the fire and terror attacks that were very touching and heartwarming. They influenced many lives and made people feel loved and valued.
There’s a story about some of the residents in the tower hanging out of the windows crying out for help. And a young woman who, out of desperation, dropped her baby from the window of her 10th floor flat and a man on the scene ran forward to safely catch the tot. This poor mother got a backlash for what she did. But she probably made the wisest decision she could ever make given the circumstance. These are just some of the harrowing accounts in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire.
It’s a haunting experience to come upon the debris site as I was making my way closer to Grenfell Tower on Wednesday afternoon. The fire trucks and other equipments were already removed, but pieces of the shattered building are still strewn across the neighbourhood while the emergency services are still trying to recover the remains of those who were trapped inside the tower. It was heart-wrenching to see people huddled in small groups weeping together, some of them were waiting to hear some news about their loved ones; others were hopeful that the firefighters will be able to pull out from the ravages of fire any physical remains of a missing family member.
On my way back home I noticed the street sign ‘Clarendon Road’ — it leads to Holland Park, one of Britain’s wealthiest neighbourhood, and I thought about the evacuees, the homeless people who used to live at Grenfell Tower, most of them are London’s poorest and are on welfare or state benefits. As I look back and saw the dark gutted tower block it dawned on me that Grenfell Tower is too close to Holland Park, that it is not that far away, yet it really is a world apart.
It’s not the first time that a blaze and a terror attack hit London, and sadly it’s not likely to be the last. In fact, there is a serious danger of terror attack or other type of disaster and it could happen to any of us at any time. It is indeed a sobering thought. A week ago I stood on Grenfell Road astonished at the devastation; I then looked up at the bright blue skies and this passage came to mind, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26:3, KJV)As I stood there taking it all in while watching the firefighters come and go, I prayed for the victims and their families, the emergency rescue team on the ground, the government leaders and the British people as a whole. I particularly prayed for the Christians around the country that they will continue to stand up for the truth and try to make a difference in the lives of others, and I ask the Lord to give peace to those who keep their faith and trust in Him.
There’s so much craziness going on around us — terrorism, persecution, violence, crime, economic uncertainty, etc. We fear for our safety, we fear for our families, we fear for our financial future, and the list goes on. There actually is so much we could potentially worry about. But the scripture tells us to “Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” (Deuteronomy 31:6, KJV)
Featured Image: BBC