Memories from living in a London tower block... #RememberGrenfell
As many Londoners know and think about today, and every day since it happened on 14th June, several lives were taken, destroyed, and turned upside down. For many of those affected, life will never be the same again.
“Nothing can bring a real sense of security into home except true love.”
Home is where the heart is, especially when living in such a close knit community; whether that’s a flat, house, or tower block.
I’ve spoken with those who have grown up in a London tower block to share their experiences of living in one, and thoughts on Grenfell a year on.
My parents and siblings moved into Arthur Punshon tower in 1985, I was born in 1991 and lived there until 1996. I don’t remember much but since Grenfell, I’ve always thought that it could have been my family — it was a 22 storey tower block. (They knocked it down in 1996.)
There are hundreds of people after Grenfell still waiting to be rehoused; they’ve gone through so much heartbreak, trauma and distress, and our current government doesn’t seem to care.
I lived in a tower block from the ages of 1–13.
The block was in Broad Water Farm estate, Haringey.
At the time, living in one was all I knew. I loved it. Our bedrooms were downstairs and the kitchen/living room upstairs and I thought this was weird and wished we lived on the other side so the bedrooms would be upstairs. This was the only envy I felt. There’s a strong sense of community I haven’t felt elsewhere since leaving. Yes, crime was high and it would be scary, but like I say, it was all I knew so I just got in with it.
I always felt safe indoors. The scariest thought for me was witnessing or being victim to a crime. But inside, It was home.
My first feeling after the Grenfell fire was that of pain. Physical and mental pain. The thought of being inside a tower block whilst it was set alight was too much. It took me right back to living in one and I felt sick at the thought. I was consumed with empathy which quickly turned into anger. Anger that they were advised to stay indoors. Anger that many more could have survived. Anger that had this not been such a poor estate a better plan would have been put in place in the first place.
The one thing that has shocked me is the one thing that shouldn’t. And it’s the aftermath. The lack of ownership from the government. The lack of help and assistance to the survivors. The fact that the incorrect death toll is a spit in the face to the families of those who have died. But this shouldn’t shock me. Traditionally speaking, poor people of colour are the least cared about by the people who in power.
I lived in a tower block in Lewisham in my teens. Memories included standing in the corner of the lift due to the strong urine smell.
I always felt safe in my home. The news of Grenfell left me devastated and scared. I kept crying because of how painful the whole ordeal felt. Seeing people just lose their lives so vividly.
A year on, what’s shocked me most about what happened is the fact that we forgot. So many lives lost and disrupted — but we did not fight for them. We could have done more. The council failed. The state failed. We need to do better.
I lived in a block for around 7 years in Hackney called Bannister House. I had good memories around the estate; my next door neighbour had disabilities so she would often pop around to ask for assistance and sugar for her tea.
I felt safe to a degree but when I got a little bit older I realised our house had severe damping, and after 6 weeks of living somewhere else and returning to the damp flat, it triggered my asthma for the first time.
My initial reaction post-Grenfell was that I just wanted to help, I wanted to see if everyone okay. I tried to go and help but when I went to the area my heart felt extremely heavy; I could barely look at all the missing persons posted and I couldn’t even look at the tower directly.
A year on — I understand that tragic things do happen, but the fact that this happened in the first place still hurts. Any time a life is loss it’s a sad time - but in this manner will forever cloud London city because we know if the victims were from an affluent background, the idea of this would not even transpire.