Home / Blog / Article


June 16 2017

Heroine of Grenfell: Teenage Girl Takes Tough Exam Hours After London Fire Destroys Her Home

by Charlotte Allen

This story, from the devastating London high-rise fire on June 14, brought tears to my eyes:

A teenage girl turned up for her GCSE exam in her pyjamas, hours after she escaped from the Grenfell Tower fire clutching her revision notes.

Ines Alves, 16, fled her 13th floor flat along with family in the early hours of Wednesday morning, as the deadly inferno spread through the North Kensington tower block.

After taking refuge at a friend’s house overnight, the defiant teenager made her way to Sacred Heart School in Hammersmith on Wednesday morning to sit her exam at 9am, wearing the same clothes she fled her home in.

The GCSE--or General Certificate of Secondary Education--exam is a series of rigorous subject-matter tests that 16-year-olds in Britain and the Commonwealth must pass in order to attest that they have completed the basic requirements for the equivalent of a U.S. high-school education. Passing the exam is a prerequisite for enrolling in 'A-level" courses that will qualify a student for admission to a British university.

Alves, even though her family's flat in the 27-story Grenfell Tower was completely destroyed along with everything the family owned, was determined not to let the devastation stand in the way of her education:

Her father Miguel, who emigrated to the UK from Portugal and works as a chauffeur, woke Ines and her brother Tiago, 20, just after 1am telling them to leave the building by the stairs.

"I put on my jeans and a top and just grabbed by phone and chemistry notes,” Ines said.  “I was trying to revise while we waited downstairs as we thought it was a small fire at first but it was impossible.

“It was my Chemistry GCSE and that’s what I want to do in my A-levels next year so I thought maybe it was necessary to do it.

“It was still really shocking and it hadn’t hit me yet, it still hasn’t completely hit me that we’ve lost our house. But I still managed to think through in my exam and do it. Considering I hadn’t looked over my notes I think it went fairly well.”

Indeed Alves' entire family seemed to have played heroic roles early in the morning of June 14 shortly after the fire broke out:

Mr Alves, who is thought to have saved more than a dozen lives by banging on his neighbours doors to wake them up, said he was “very proud” of his daughter.

“I knocked the neighbours to wake them up and tell them to come down because it was a fire,” Mr Alves told BBC Radio 5Live.

“They came out, I left them there after I told them and I just took my son and daughter out of the building. I am very proud of her because she did what – I never expected for her to do the exam that night but she decided to go.”

Ines’ family told her that she could miss the exam due to extenuating circumstances, but she refused to admit defeat.

Tiago, a physics student at Kings College in London, told The Daily Telegraph how a series of chance events meant that his families lives were saved.

“We all went out to dinner with south African relatives who were visiting London,” he said.

“My parents took them home by car around 12.30, and when they got back they went into the lift.

“Two other people went into the lift with them and clicked the fourth floor. As the doors opened the whole lift filled with smoke. My Dad was quick thinking and told Mum to go back down to the car. He got out the lift and ran up the stairs to floor 13.

At about ten past one, my dad just opened the door and ran in saying ‘get your stuff, get dressed, we are going downstairs, there’s a fire’.

“If it wasn’t for that we would have just slept through. We are incredibly lucky. My Dad then knocked on the doors of everyone else on the floor and told everyone to get out.”

He said his sister grabbed her phone and revision notes, saying 'If I’m not sleeping, I may as well be studying'.

Tiago said that as he and his sister fled down 13 flights of stairs, they didn’t notice anything amiss until they got to the sixth floor.

“At the sixth floor we notice smoke and, by the fourth floor we reached fire fighters,” he said. “We asked if everything is ok, they said ‘you didn’t need to leave but now you have you may as well go outside’.”

After sitting her exam, Ines joined the rest of her family, parents Miguel and Fatima along with Tiago, to help their neighbours who had survived the fire.

What a family! For one thing the Alveses had the sense to ignore the nanny-state U.K. "stay put" rule that tells prople to remain inside their apartments during a fire in the passive hope that somehow they will be rescued by the government--a rule that undoubtedly contributed to the mounting and horrifying death toll at Grenfell. Anyone with an ounce of the sense he was born with knows that the first rule of a fire is: Get out of the fire. The "stay put" rule seems to have been behind the fact that Grenfell had exactly one staircase for its 600 residents to try to flee tje building and no sprinkler system whatsoever.

And let's compare the grit of Ines Alves to the snowflake-dom of these American college students who had to endure the horror of having a candidate they didn't like win the presidential election on Nov. 8, 2016:

Professors at many universities canceled classes Wednesday to help their students deal with the apparent trauma of the election results.

"Because I know this process has been difficult for many of you (emotionally and mentally), I wanted to let you know that I’m not taking roll in class tomorrow," a professor at UConn wrote in an email to students.

She told her English students she understood if they needed a "personal day" to deal with Donald Trump being elected president.

Ines Alves spent her own "personal day" taking a tough exam and then helping the victims of a ghastly tragedy.

 

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
Follow us