Didcot – I will be silent out of respect; but I will be vocal out of anger and frustration.
Earlier this week, I took a phone call from a researcher at a national radio station.
“Hi Mark,” the researcher said. “Are you aware that this weekend marks the fourth anniversary of the Didcot disaster?”
Am I aware? Let me think.
Am I aware that it is 208 weeks since the worst demolition accident in living memory? Am I aware that it is 1,459 days since Ken Cresswell, John Shaw, Michael Collings, and Christopher Huxtable were ripped from the bosom of their respective families, never to return? Am I aware that those families and the demolition industry have been waiting more than two million minutes for some indication of what went wrong and for some sense of closure?
Yes, I am aware, thank you. Very aware. Painfully aware.
I am also aware that Didcot is the single thing I have written about most in a 30-year career in journalism. It is the subject I have talked about most. To this day, wherever I travel, it remains the subject I am asked about most.
To the families and friends of the four men; to their work colleagues; and to the global demolition community, the memory of Didcot never goes away.
My fear, however, is that – to the wider world – Didcot is now just a thing that happened in the past.
In the immediate aftermath of the accident, the subject was front page news. It was discussed in the House of Commons. Members of Parliament called for action.
On each of the subsequent anniversaries, the Health and Safety Executive or Thames Valley Police have issued statements to update the world on the progress of their investigation.
This year, as I am writing this, there has been no such statement. MPs are more concerned with the aftermath of a Brexit disaster they brought upon themselves. National newspapers are far more interested in hounding to death vulnerable celebrities.
In fact, with the notable exception of a strongly-worded call for action from the Unite union late last year, Didcot has seemingly fallen off the public radar.
We cannot allow that to happen.
Each passing day that the HSE drags its heels is a further insult to the memory of four men that died while going about their business. Each passing day that the legal-eagles pull together their high profile prosecution case is another day that any lessons that might be learned remain buried in bureaucracy. Each passing day that those involved are forced to remain silent to ensure they don’t prejudice any court case is another day that demolition men and women remain at risk and without all the necessary facts.
The fourth anniversary of the Didcot Disaster falls on a weekend, so it is questionable whether the demolition industry will observe the one or the four-minute silence with which it has marked previous anniversaries.
Personally, I will take a moment to respect the memory of Ken Cresswell, John Shaw, Michael Collings, and Christopher Huxtable. I will take myself away from my family and friends and I will be silent, just for a sort time.
But I will not be silent about the need to bring the investigation to a conclusion. I will not be silent until the industry has the answers it needs. I will not be silent until the families of the four men get the closure they so richly deserve.
And neither should you.