The burning question…” What would you take out with you if your house was on fire?”
I’ve had this asked to me several times and pondered about it; I’ve always thought instantly I’d grab old photographs of course…the ones before the digital era. And some old jewellery that’s been in the family for a long while. Oh, and my laptop, phone and handbag. Especially my laptop with the starting of my book emerging which has been squeezed out of me over the last few months. I sometimes would think which order would I get them in and would I take risks to get them. I’ve heard stories about people that didn’t take their pictures and thought how strange they wouldn’t have thought of that.
Last night it happened to me. The running out of a burning building and so my theories were put to the test….and I took nothing. Absolutely nothing, not even a coat and shoes on a night that was promising to be a scene from Siberia. My priority I discovered at this time was life. Pure life, just us. In that moment in time I wanted for nothing, absolutely nothing; the clarity was as stark as it was pure and so insightful. I was very aware that everything had the potential of being destroyed but I honestly didn’t care. I had my son and my partner safe and that was like winning the lottery right then. Thank you.
The second thing I learnt was I turned into “a beast” or “wild woman” in the words of my 11-year old. Once I knew we were safe and had called the fire heroes my attention was directed to our lovely neighbours trapped in their home which was where the fire was raging. We spent those agonising minutes before the fire crew arrived trying to crawl into their flat and communicate with them and smash their windows with bins or paint pots …. all to no avail. My son made sure neither I nor my partner did anything silly like run into a burning building – it is a human condition you see, to protect others. We all do it in our misguided ways but then along comes those that are trained in it, trained to step into those blazing fires and miraculously see through thick black menacing smoke that is something that is quite unique to this house consuming flame. Somehow, they work out a layout that is blind to them, endure heat that is painful and seek those that need to be given another chance in life. We watched in absolute breath-holding moments as this crew, three fire engines worth, managed to save these two familiar figures from the engulfing flames.
It is honestly indescribable the amount of love and gratitude I have for these firemen, taking me a step closer to empathising more wholly to the atrocities of Grenfell Towers. Thank you
The last thing I learnt that I wish to share is “love thy neighbour”. One family embraced us into their lives like we had known them from birth. We hardly knew them, only they live next door, are from Poland and smile sweetly as we pass one another every now and then. They literally gave us their shirts from their backs, they protected my son, they made us a bed on their sofa, endured police knocking several times in the early hours to talk to us and even got up early to buy us fresh bakery products to help entice our shocked bodies into action. I can’t tell you how much this meant to us, you made sense out of something nonsensical and confirmed what I already knew; we are all one connected with an invisible thread of love that keeps us safe and protects us and feeling separate from someone we don’t know is an illusion. It’s the opposite, it is humbling and it is quite magical. Thank you