Yesterday, Croydon Council organised a very moving event where the families of those who lost their lives in the tragic tram derailment on Wednesday 9th November walked from the floral tribute at the top of Clyde Road to the tribute at the junction of Sandilands and Addiscombe Road, observed a minute's silence and laid a flower in memory of their loved ones. I was touched to be asked to say a few words at the end of the ceremony. This is what I said:
"Good morning everybody. First of all, I want to say thank you to the Council for giving me this opportunity to say a few words. It’s a huge honour, but on another level this is one of the most difficult speeches I’ve ever had to give. As politicians we're meant to be good at words, but it’s very difficult to know what to say to all of you.
"There are really just two very simple thoughts that I want to communicate.
"First, I hope that today’s ceremony and the floral tributes that have lain here since the 9th of November and at the top of Clyde Road where we just were and up in New Addington, which are the visual representation of the huge sympathy for all of you that people right across this town feel, have been some small comfort to you in your grief.
"One of the things that makes us human is empathy, the ability to understand how other people might be feeling. We all get up in the morning and say goodbye to our loved ones as we go off to school or college or work and never think that that might be the last time we see somebody. So people right across this town can understand what you have been through. And though they haven’t lost somebody I know that their thoughts in the immediate aftermath of the accident and still today are with all of you.
"The second thing I wanted to say is that I didn’t have the privilege of knowing Dane or Donald or Dorota or Mark, Philip, Philip or Robert. But I think that we can all see from the incredible dignity that you as families have shown in the aftermath of this terrible tragedy that they were fine people that had support from fine families.
"And if you’ll allow me one final point I’d like to take this opportunity to say thank you to the officers of the Council and to the staff of the London Fire Brigade, our ambulance service, our police service, British Transport Police for the work they did on that terrible morning trying to save people’s lives and trying to support people afterwards.
"So thank you to the Leader of the Council for allowing me to say these few words and my deepest and sincere condolences to you all".