Belfast Telegraph

Spirit of humanity shines amid London fire tragedy

Editor's Viewpoint

Looking around the modern world it is often easy to despair of our fellow humans. Old fashioned values like neighbourliness, caring for others less fortunate and generosity appear to have vanished as society sweeps along on a tide of survival of the fittest.

But then, in the wake of some tragedy or other, we see humanity emerge. Witness the reaction to the horror of the Grenfell Tower inferno. At the time of writing some £2.4m had been donated, the largest sum in the shortest period, through the justgiving system.

However, it was in the very shadow of the tower block that the most inspiring examples of people coming together were seen. As a young Northern Ireland girl helping sort out the loads of clothes and food donated for the survivors of the blaze said, people who a few days ago would hardly have acknowledged each other on the street were now going the extra mile together to bring some solace to a desperate community still reeling from shock and grief.

Not everyone, of course, is so altruistic and caring. On social media and in the political arena there remains the tendency to finger-point and apportion blame even before the cause of the fire, the reasons why it spread so quickly, the number of residents who perished or the culprits for any shortcomings in fire safety at the tower block are known.

These are all important questions which need to be answered after a rigorous inquiry into the blaze. There must be full disclosure of all the factors which may have contributed to the tragedy, one of the worst in modern Britain.

Yet, amid the anger at what happened, there needs to be a period of reflection and grieving rather than stirring up emotions with accusations which cannot possibly be answered properly at this time.

The focus of attention initially must be the survivors and bereaved. There has been a tremendous groundswell of support for them already, but more will be needed in the days ahead as the death toll mounts and the identities of victims are revealed.

Today we carry a story of how a good turn can bring its own reward. Some 37 years ago a fireman in Londonderry rescued a five-year-old girl from her blazing home. She almost died from smoke inhalation. That fireman is now in hospital and being treated by that little girl who is now a nurse. The spirit of caring has come full circle, creating a neat little parable on the value of doing the right thing.

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