Analysis

Grenfell: ‘The main struggle is the anger in the area’

Local resident Lucy Wood and her young nephew were among thousands of witnesses to the tower block fire. She allowed Nursing Standard to sit in on her PTSD screening with the outreach team

Local resident Lucy Wood and her young nephew were among thousands of witnesses to the tower block fire. She allowed Nursing Standard to sit in on her PTSD screening with the outreach team


Grenfell witness Lucy Wood during her PTSD screening session with outreach team member Sandra Ifidon Osagiede. Picture: Barney Newman

Lucy Wood used to devour two books a week, but since the Grenfell Tower fire she’s not managed to focus on a single page.

She is what the outreach team term a ‘witness’ to the blaze, although she didn’t learn of it until daybreak on 14 June, hours after the fire broke out at 1am.

‘Are you alright?’

That morning Ms Wood woke to the news of the fire while babysitting her young nephew in his home, which is across the street from her own flat in an area known as ‘Frestonia’, close to the Lancaster West estate.

‘I got woken up by texts and phone calls saying “are you alright?”. Then my mum burst in saying that my nephew’s school was closed,’ she says.

‘I went in to wake him up but he had already been awake for an hour using Snapchat, so he knew all about the fire.

‘Then he just said “all my friends are dead” and started crying.’

She adds: ‘We had people in our garden who had escaped from the floors underneath the fire. They had been on the phone to their friends who were on the 20th floor all night until the phone had died.

'Our garden was a little hub for homeless people.’

Searching for loved ones

Like many others, Ms Wood and her nephew spent the day locating friends.

She knew one person who died in the fire – someone who had worked in a volunteer café she once ran.

Ms Wood had also recently suffered a separate bereavement, when her best friend died on New Year’s Eve 2015. She was just starting counselling when the fire happened.

During her PTSD screening, which was observed by Nursing Standard with her permission, she explains how she gets shaky and has upsetting dreams and thoughts about the fire. She also has difficulty sleeping and has a heightened awareness of danger to herself and others.

Access to counselling

In her work as an admin lead for the NHS, she was in a meeting with the mental health unit some time after the Grenfell blaze when a fire broke out in a nearby office block.

‘There was smoke coming up and we saw it from the windows – it made me very shaky,’ she says.

At the end of the screening, Ms Wood agrees she will contact occupational health about possible counselling.

She says: ‘The main struggle is the anger in the area, in the young people and the older people, and every time you speak to someone they bring up Grenfell, but that day after the fire was pretty…’

She is lost for words.

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