“Hindus who would normally burn the bodies of their dead relatives have buried them tonight. Some parents are saying that cannot bear to put these burnt bodies into fire again.”

As a parent, I cannot begin to conceive of the pain, distress, anger and utter dispair that will inhabit every breath and heartbeat of those who have lost their children in the Indian school fire. Having read the accounts in today’s news, I find it hard to shake the eyewitness testimony.

“Parents are looking at their dead children. It is heart-rending. Thousands have gathered here … it is a grave tragedy.”

“Parents were crying, beating their chests and calling out for their children,”

“Parents are wailing as they try to identify their children’s bodies”

“The parents are rushing through the last rites as they cannot bear to look at the charred bodies any more.”

Periodically, I make my kids run through fire and escape drills in our house and I encourage you to do the same – can they (or you for that matter) find the keys for the back door or slip the anti-burglar latch on the doubleglazed windows with their eyes shut? You’d be surprised how unfriendly your home is when you’re robbed of sight and a fire alarm is screeching in your ear. This may strike you as bordering on the obsessive so I should explain why I do this. Some years ago, I spent two days with Hampshire Fire and Rescue training as a fire and rescue marshal. On the second day, after much fire hosing, extinguishing and coaching on escape techniques, we were given firefighter’s tunics and taken to a room in the middle of the top floor ‘flat’ of the training tower below.

Once there, we were left on our own. Over the next few minutes, the temperature was raised to close to unbearable (imagine extremely hot sauna and then some), artificial smoke swept through the rooms as sorched air was pumped through the tower…and then the lights went out. The subsequent minutes, when I and a couple of colleagues tried, and barely succeeded, to find our way out of the ‘flat’ and down to safety, made a significant impression on me. Despite knowing that I was on a training exercise overseen by some of the best firefighters in the world, I was extremely frightened, convinced the exercise had gone wrong and the fire was real, such was the impact of the noise and heat upon my senses . Controlling the urge to panic and instead focus on systematically shuffling and searching until finding the exit was amongst the hardest things I have ever done. It is for this reason that tonight, whilst making sure the keys are in the same agreed spot and the smoke alarms are working, I will have a good thought for the lost children and bereaved parents and relatives of Kumbakonam.

One Response to “Unimaginable”

  1. zoe says:

    following your post i think that i’ll move our sledgehammer closer to the kitchen door … but are we ever safe ?

Leave a Reply