Monday, 24 August 2015

Shoreham air disaster and community support

It has been a sad weekend for Sussex, and the impact of the disaster at Shoreham air-show is still unfolding. Current news reports  are that 11 people are feared dead after a Hawker Hunter Jet crashed on the A27 dual carriageway while attempting to loop the loop during the air-show this weekend. The authorities initially feared that there could have been as many as 20 victims in total, but as I write this the Guardian is reporting that the plane has been removed from the site and no more bodies have been discovered underneath the wreckage.

Shoreham Tollbridge spans the river Adur and has become the centre for a growing floral tribute to the victims and their families (below are some photos taken earlier today by Guardian journalist Haroon Siddique). I visited this tribute today so that I could pay my own respects as I think it's important to remind oneself of the human costs involved when researching disasters and mass emergencies. It was quite a moving experience, and I was struck by the scale and content of the tributes left by the local community. In a previous blog I looked at the spontaneous social support that emerged after the death of the singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse. A similar process seems to be happening in response to the Shoreham disaster, although here we are seeing people coming together to commemorate those who were mainly ordinary members of the public caught up in a tragic accident (as opposed to a global celebrity with a loyal fan-base who was constantly in the media spotlight). Of the victims named so far, two are footballers from the local team Worthing United, and I saw some moving tributes to them on the bridge from their friends and family. The floral tribute was growing larger by the minute when I was there, as a constant stream of people arrived to pay their respects, and by the time I left, there were already a couple of hundred bouquets along with some football T-Shirts in memory of the local footballers.However, what I thought was also significant was that the majority of written tributes I saw were either from anonymous sources or from people  who didn't appear to know directly any of the victims, but still wanted to pay their respects as members of the local community, and a selection are copied below;  

' A community left numb'

'Terrible tragedy to happen to our county' 

'Shoreham weeps for all the victims'

'We didn't know you but we came because we care. We wanted you to know that you and your families are in our thoughts. Shoreham grieves for you and with you'

'To all who lost their lives I hope you find peace and to the families and friends my deepest sympathy and condolences. This has truly shocked our community'.

Finally, the one I thought was most touching was the tribute accompanying the drawing in the photo below which simply said;

'RIP from a little girl'

In work I did with John Drury on the 7/7 London bombings, we found that people can come together to co-operate during mass emergencies because a common identity emerged amongst crowd members in response to a shared threat,  and we argued that people would also support each other in the aftermath of such emergencies if they could maintain such a shared identity. What we felt was significant was that the vast majority of people caught up in the crowds during the 7/7 attacks were total strangers, but they still reported a strong sense of identity which emerged from their shared experience of adversity. I believe that the growing floral tributes I saw today are also evidence of the emergent community support and solidarity that can come from strangers and I hope this is of some comfort to those affected by this terrible accident.

The growing floral tribute on Shoreham Toll-bridge

'RIP from a little girl'

No comments:

Post a Comment