Sometimes an emergency brings out the very best in people.
The recent fire in the Madingley tower block on the Cambridge Estate in Norbiton is a classic example.
Anyone watching the dramatic live pictures would be amazed no-one was killed or seriously injured. I arrived on the estate about an hour after the fire had been put out, but talking to residents that evening it soon became clear why no-one had been hurt.
Quite simply, it was the courage and calmness of other residents – mostly young people – and of course, the excellent emergency services.
Although the fire broke out that afternoon, there were quite a few people in the tower block – including some elderly and disabled people. Many only learnt of the fire because residents who’d seen the flames went into the building, and banged on doors to alert people. One local young man broke down a door to rescue a mother and her baby.
But this fantastic community spirit did not end there.
Families and friends were soon offering people who’d lost their homes rooms for the night, as well as food. Council staff also deserve high praise for helping and housing everyone else.
In the aftermath, there will of course be many questions. Most urgently, how the residents of Madingley are permanently housed. But there will also be investigations into the cause of the fire. Police investigations. Checks on how well measures designed to prevent the spread of fires within the block actually performed. And so on.
Yet in all that questioning, let’s remember what was really important in all this: individuals and the community really looked out for each other.