Editor’s comment: Take heart from Keith’s act of bravery

Heroes Joe Charles and his father Keith. Picture: POLLY HANCOCK

Heroes Joe Charles and his father Keith. Picture: POLLY HANCOCK - Credit: Archant

The video of Keith Charles storming a burning building to rescue an 80-year-old woman is as heartening as it is terrifying.

I wrote in a column at the start of the year that I wanted more good news stories in the Gazette – and this certainly fits the bill.

It is not just testament to Keith’s bravery that he broke down Mrs Brown’s door to save her from the flames – it is a ringing endorsement for the strength of our communities.

Received wisdom has it that no one knows their neighbours any more; that Londoners don’t make eye contact or talk to bus drivers; that Hackney has a transient population whose members rarely put down roots; that young people are disrespectful, selfish, and worse; that advances in technology over the last 25 years have disconnected us from the people physically around us.

Next time you hear someone repeat one of those fictions, remember the image of a man breaking down the door of a burning house, or the quick thinking of his teenage son that saved an elderly woman’s life. People like Keith and Joe make Hackney great.

I’m not for a moment suggesting we should all start taking house fires into our own hands: London’s fantastic firefighters are the professionals, and being a hero could get you seriously hurt or killed, not to mention obstructing them as they save lives.

But clearly there’s only one appropriate reaction to Keith’s selfless act, which is to say: well done, mate.

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We would all do well to remember as we go about our lives in Hackney, and beyond, that our neighbours and friends and colleagues and doctors and bin collectors are incredible people capable of more than we (and perhaps even they) know – and that they are worthy of our respect and kindness, whatever mood we might be in.