Grenfell Tower: Behind the Headlines

Melonie Kotschwar is a student at Concordia University Nebraska and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is interning abroad with ISA Internships in London, England.

Grenfell Tower

Being an intern at Migrants Organise in London a short distance from Grenfell Tower has afforded me the opportunity to actually speak to people first hand, to learn about their experiences and see how things are handled and portrayed. I don’t want to go into the biases of media but I do want to share what I have experienced and seen.

Day One:

My roommate woke me up to tell me that there had been a fire and that it was near where I worked. I really didn’t think a lot about it and was too tired to wake up at the time. Yet, when I did wake up, I started looking up live broadcasts and found the horrifying scenes of the morning. People trapped, jumping, throwing children, flashing their cell phones through the window, and screaming for help. I was really saddened and horrified by the events.

I tried to get to work but had to take the buses for the first time and ended up coming in an hour late. On my walk to work I caught a direct view of the Tower and could still see it smoking. I didn’t stop, as I was in a hurry to get in and go meet a member of Migrants Organise to help them out. Yet, the view of the smoking black tower was enough to make my heart ache in horror and grief at the site. I wanted to do something, but knew I needed to get to work and I had a busy day.

Notices of those missing, they are posted all over the area, I have passed by many on the way to work.

Day Two:

Getting to work was easier the second day, and I got to be part of my first meeting with most of the team of Migrants Organise. Yet, today was different, as we were trying to figure out how best to help the community. While some stayed in the office to organize two new interns, I went with Paul and Bashar to go help out at collection sites. These sites were being set up in different areas near Grenfell Tower collecting clothes, diapers, food, wipes, and monetary donations.

We ended up volunteering at Aklam and stayed there for a couple of hours, sorting clothes as fast as we could. Donations were coming in fast, and we had to keep going in order to keep up with the pace.

I had the privilege of seeing many people coming in to give clothes, to give of their time, and to give a listening ear. Many sites were full of people willing to do all they could to help those in need. People were also grieving, angry and bewildered by the fire, how fast it had caught on and how many people were missing.

One lady was worried about the children. She had said that she did not know where they were and could not find them. 100 children were missing, and she was looking all over for them but could not find them. The names of people being sent to hospitals and temporary accommodations were not being giving out. Thus, those looking for them could not find where their loved ones and friends were, and they feared the worst.

I cannot imagine the agony in waiting, not knowing what may have happened to family and loved ones–and maybe not knowing anything at all. The fear, the lack of knowledge, and the lack of context for those not in the situation creates a mixture of emotions that may not be respected by others. It really puts into stark reality the differences between the haves and have-nots and should help us realize the need to be compassionate, respectful, and loving to all.

Organizers near Grenfell Tower while we were looking for places to help

The world awaits…discover it.

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