Friday last, I’d been in in since crack of dawn catching up with myself and all was going nicely. At about 0825 the word went out that there’d been an incident in the street and would we mind clearing away the hundreds of nosey teenagers who were potentially impeding the emergency services? Colleagues helpfully rushed forth and sheepdogged the masses through the gates. So far so good, but the sound of helicopter rotors was growing, like one of those modern war films where everything’s falling apart and out of the sky. This does not calm: children were jumping up and down with excitement.
Concerned about a frankly poor start to the day, I gathered self and Acme Thunderer, instructed my long-suffering PA to ‘tell everyone to get their kids in’ and scuttled out. Block 5’s staircases go around the long way so all hell had actually broken loose by the time I gained the concourse. The children, happy to have been ushered off the public highway, entered Fortress Tallis only to find that the bright red Air Ambulance had obligingly landed just south of our memorial garden for their better inspection. The noise was deafening, whistles completely useless. Miraculously, adults summoned by my peremptory instruction managed to get in front of the crowd thus preventing the foolish from getting in the way of the landing skids (a new technical term).
I was a seething ball of outrage by then and with a cry of ‘who said they could land a helicopter here?’ stomped towards the offending machine, which was turning itself off. The pilot, obviously experienced with het-up local despots, took the wind out of my sails by apologising so charmingly that within seconds I had offered him free landing rights for life from the football area to the basketball courts, an escort in and out of the gates and a cup of tea if he liked. Everyone went in and the machine had picked itself up and gone within 10 minutes.
By then, of course, it was all over social media that the air ambulance had had to be called because of something at school, so I spent a bit of time calming folks. Yes, it had landed. Yes, there was a life-changing injury. No, it was not at school. No, it didn’t involve any children. For us, it was over by lesson 2. For the family involved, not so. As I said in a swift email to parents: seeing the helicopter had been fascinating for the children but tragedy lay behind it. We were glad to be of service (once I’d got over myself, I didn’t add).
I’d hoped for calm on Friday because we had enough excitement, which, as Mr Dunford knew needs to be doled out carefully in school lest things become inflamed. It was Earth Day, so we had visitors and gardening, including a chance for year 9 to mingle with leaf blowers and lawnmowers round in the other garden.
It was also Stephen Lawrence Day so we had one of our moments of solidarity planned, with a gathering on the concourse, in memory and to hope for better.
We’ve done a few of these now, it’s becoming quite a feature of Tallis life. We’ve got better at the practicalities. The speaker had rehearsed well and I kept my nose out of the amplification – except to pull the plug on a nice little band playing as the community started to come out. You don’t have to be zero-tolerance to know that there’s a better chance of getting silence quickly without shouting if there’s no other noise. The heli had given us quite enough of that. They played to a rapt audience afterwards, when no one needed to be quiet.
Our speaker was Harry Marcus from 10RA, from his heart and his mum came to hear him. He talked about the Lawrence family first, and then his own:
My family have also been directly affected by knife crime. I lost my brother in 2019 as a result. My brother was named Leo Marcus. His life got cut short due to knife crime. He was only 22. His killer did this to steal his bag and his bike. Leo was a funny cheeky chap that loved his bike and playing basketball. This event traumatised me and my family and left us 1 person short in the family
As a young community with a wide variety of ethnicities and genders I believe it’s important to work together to try stop knife crime and hate towards different groups.
We also need to remember knife crime doesn’t just ruin the life of the victim it ruins the life of the criminal; it destroys 2 families. My brother’s murderer was caught with a knife on a previous occasion. If he was punished for that offence, he wouldn’t have been out on the streets and able to kill my brother. So, me and my family have started a petition for harsher sentencing for knife crime.
If you think we should end knife crime in our cities…
If you think we should remember Stephen Lawrence…
If you think we can change the world for the better…
Make some noise!
I would like to say thank you to everyone coming to listen and I hope we can educate the world together and change it for the better
Let’s hope they work until the Air Ambulance comes. It was a stabbing across our street, a precursor to the four in Bermondsey this week. Adults, like the majority of victims and perpetrators.
The model they set both permits and terrifies young people into copying it. Our safe schools and all the books on all the shelves won’t stop the bloodshed until the adults stop. Thank goodness for the Air Ambulance, and cry God for Harry.