“Look for the Helpers”

The last few months have seen some truly awful events in the United Kingdom. The first incident was the Westminster attack. This was followed by the appalling scenes in Manchester and before anyone had chance to reflect too much on that, London was attacked again at London Bridge and Borough Market.

This morning we have seen terrifying images from the Grenfell Tower fire. Truly the stuff of nightmares.

The country is no doubt feeling traumatised and there are many many questions to be asked and answered. The feeling of turmoil will not be helped by the state of UK politics but it is not my place to comment on any of that.

What I am going to comment on are the two things which have been evident in all of these dreadful tragedies.

Bravery and kindness.

In all of these incidents we have heard of examples of incredible selflessness and bravery. These have ranged from:

  • Medical staff running onto the streets to treat the injured at Westminster
  • A Member of Parliament giving CPR to a mortally wounded police officer
  • Homeless men going into the foyer of the Manchester Arena to help injured children and others
  • Members of the public bravely trying to distract and fend off the London attackers with bottles and chairs and anything else they can get their hands on.
  • Residents from in and around the Grenfell Tower helping others out or offering assistance and shelter straight afterwards.

This is before you consider:

  • The armed officer at Westminster who had the presence of mind to realise what was happening and bring it to a rapid conclusion
  • The unarmed officer from British Trasport Police who attempted to take on all three attackers in London – in their fake suicide belts – with a baton
  • The armed officers who arrived on the scene minutes later and did what needed to be done without hesitation
  • The fire fighters who went in to the raging inferno at Grenfell and spent hours inside trying to get people out and bring it under control
  • The paramedics and doctors who worked for so long and so hard to save life. In the London incident – saving the lives of all 48 people who were rushed to hospital.

There has been an outpouring of love and of grief. The One Love concert in Manchester was both cathartic and necessary. We have seen people donating time, money, clothes, taxi services and anything else which could possibly be of use. We have seen the public thanking the emergency services with cards and gifts of food and drinks.

We have seen some terrible and truly awful things. We are seeing more “minute silences” than any nation should have to observe. We have seen the very worst of humanity.

But – rising above this – way way above this – we have seen the very best of humanity. People putting themselves in harms way to help others – both the public and the emergency services.

It seems to have become “the done thing” to point out, after these awful events, the people who ran towards the danger rather than away from it.

It is right that we recognise and acknowledge this but I hope these don’t become tokenistic words which get repeated without real meaning in the aftermath.

These events have, sadly, become horribly familiar in recent months but they are not “normal”, they are not “ordinary” and they are not “business as usual.”

Everyone – professional or otherwise – who has been involved or close to these incidents will be affected by it in some way or another. Awful, harrowing scenes which even the most hardened member of the emergency services will struggle to process.

It is right that we recognise the people who run towards danger but we need to make sure they have support when they themselves eventually get to walk away.

The news has been truly awful of late and it makes you wonder what the hell the world is coming to – but I will leave you with the words I tweeted after the second London attack. They are not mine but those of a famous American children’s TV presenter from years gone by.

Mr Rogers (Fred Rogers) is quoted as saying “when I was a little boy and saw frightening things on the television news – my mother would always tell me to look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

We need to go one step further though. We need not just to look for the helpers – as reassuring as that is – we need to look OUT for the helpers once the event is over.

It is the very least that the various organisations, the people and indeed the government should do.

They had our backs – we need to have theirs.

To each of those helpers in all of these terrible events – whether you be public or a member of the emergency services – on behalf of a grateful nation – thank you.

UPDATE: This morning (15/06/17) I watched London Fire Service Commissioner, Dany Cotton give a live interview on Sky News. Rarely have I been so moved and impressed by such a natural display of visible leadership. In fact, the last time I felt this way was when I heard Nick Adderley speak at Police Federation conference of his time as area commander when PC’s Hughes and Bone were murdered.

Commissioner Cotton, in the space of a few minutes, managed to explain what could be explained, explain why would couldn’t yet be explained could not yet be explained and she spoke of her sorrow for the community. But in amongst all this she spoke of her colleagues. Her admiration for their bravery and commitment in an unprecedented incident. But she also showed tremendous forward thinking. She recognised that this event would have an effect on her people and promised to support them.

“They are heroes but they also have feelings and many are devastated by yesterday’s events”

Leadership like that – is priceless


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