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'The tower is a very difficult visual sight': Church reverend shares his thoughts 100 days on from Grenfell Tower fire

In the hours, days and weeks following the fatal fire, Notting Hill Methodist Church has acted as a vital support facility

Notting Hill Methodist Church acted as a vital facility for receiving and sorting donations in the hours and days following the fatal fire.

Marking 100 days on , reverend Mike Long recounts the moment he was made aware Grenfell Tower was on fire and shares his memories of the "chaotic" relief effort with getwestlondon.

"I first was made aware of what was going on at 4.30am when one of my church members called me, told me the tower was on fire and I live relatively close to here," he said.

 

He continues: "I came down straight away, couldn’t get close to the church because it was within the safety cordon and a church member called me about the same moment on my phone and was very distressed looking for a friend of hers who was in the tower, who had not been able to get out, though fortunately, we discovered a day or two later that she was okay, relatively speaking.

"So I went round and met this church member and spent much of the first part of the morning, 5am, 6am, 7am, walking round the scene and also one of the reception centres where I met quite a number of the people who had been taken out from the tower.

Rev. Mike Long says he is proud of the local community(Image: Hounslow Chronicle)

"I think it’s hard to describe how impressed I am really"

"At about 9am, I was able to get into the church here, the police allowed me through the cordon and said we could open for business and when we did. Immediately it seemed, enormous numbers of people started arriving from the local community bringing water and blankets, initially I think for the firefighters and the police.

"I remember by lunchtime the operation was so large in the building, we had, I don’t know, 60, 100 people in the building, we had to label everybody up, because most people did not know anybody else.

"We needed ways of communicating and organising ourselves because even by that stage it had become a very significant sized operation."

When asked about the way in which the community came together on June 14, he said: "I think it’s hard to describe how impressed I am really, a number of things, the sheer number of people volunteering, the amount of time and commitment that certainly many have offered."

Adding: "The way in which people put their own egos and interests aside and worked together, people who would perhaps not normally come across each other, people from very different backgrounds, faiths, much else.

"It was chaotic, it was extremely chaotic"

"So there is a tremendous sense of goodwill and harmony, not that everybody thinks the same and there are differences of view.

"It was chaotic, it was extremely chaotic, that’s partly because there was a huge absence of guidance and coordination anywhere.

Notting Hill Methodist Church was the site in which many donations were sorted and sent out to those in need(Image: PA)

"Indeed the best thing that happened in the first few days was the local voluntary organisations met together on the Saturday afternoon, very briefly and set up a WhatsApp group which is still going, and that was the way in which we learnt what was going on and that was the way in which we managed to communicate efforts.

"People self-organised. On particular days, somebody was working in the basement, somebody was organising ladies clothes, somebody was sorting out shoes and occasionally they would come to me and say, ‘Rev can we use these particular rooms, we want to use it for that or we’re going to move things from a particular room’, so we established that the particular floors would be used for different purposes."

"The tower is a very difficult visual sight"

He believed the tower is still causing distress within the community.

Notting Hill Methodist Church were overrun with generous donations(Image: Hounslow Chronicle)

He said: "I think people want to get on with things, in particular, I think they want the tower to be shielded from view, they want the tower to be dismantled.

"The tower is a very difficult visual sight, it’s gruesome and horrific for people, it causes considerable distress still and I think its presence is deeply unsettling for many, even as people may understand the reasons why it cannot quickly be shielded from view."

To read the full story, head to our special feature on Grenfell 100 days on.

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