THE Second Fire in four years at the heart of the Glasgow School of Art has also broken people’s hearts. There is dismay, grief – this feels like a funeral – and anger. But it’s not the end.

In 2008 Martin Amis published a collection of articles entitled The Second Plane which referred to the second plane’s impact on the World Trade Centre in 2001 as the moment when something frightening and previously unseen was underway. The Second Fire at The Glasgow School of Art feels like this to those whose self (as a graduate of the school, whatever happens we all have that cherished and special memory) are embedded somehow in the fabric of the Mackintosh building. In much the same way, that close experience with the building has formed us too.

Those who have visited the building equally recognise that it is special to Glaswegians. It figures as somewhere special for all manner of reasons. It has accrued immeasurable cultural capital.The Mackintosh may have already passed the moment of existential crisis and what has unravelled is a ruined site of a restoration. Partial demolition is mooted although voices are raised against any hint of the idea. If it can be re-restored the costs will be even higher. The rebuild and restoration were well underway, testament to the staff, management and supporters of the school, including past and former students. The unveiling of the £35million restoration was keenly awaited.

Indeed, if a new rebuild is planned after the Second Fire, in line with, and learning from, the now destroyed restoration, the present management are the one group who have had to figure out how to do that in the past and there are no better groups available to do the same again. We wish them well.

But where are we now? Hearts, not minds. Calling friends on their mobiles at 2am on Saturday, group emails to my peers in the class of ‘88, reading the Twitter feeds, watching updates on the fire and the near perfect reaction by governments as the fire headlined the news bulletins, there is nevertheless trepidation. There is also annoyance. Some are angry. There are also suspicions; was it fire-raising?

It should have been a weekend in celebration of the esteemed trio of David Harding, Sam Ainsley and Sandy Moffat, whose honorary doctorates were awarded by the school just hours before the devastation. Sam Ainsley exhorted the newly graduating students with her words, “Focus on the long term, trust your instincts and be honest about who you are and what you believe in”. They have invested much in generations of artists’ training in Glasgow, at no small cost to their careers as artists. And that’s what my picture shows, just one of those year groups: the class of ‘88. The photo is grainy. Sitting on the third step in the far right hand is Cathy Wilkes, soon to represent Britain an the Venice Biennale. There, up on the middle row, far to the left and wearing a white T-shirt, is Douglas Gordon, who, through working with Transmission Gallery and others, has the highest of claims to have initiated the innovations which kick-started the post-80s success of the school’s legion of legends. But in reality the ecology of such a success is hard to define and the Mack was clearly in the mix. For some it was the family home, hence the tears and sadness.

The Second Plane? My initial comments seem like a rather outrageous analogy. No-one died at the weekend and I should apologise for invoking such horror. On the other hand, there have been outrageous examples of cultural vandalism enacted in the vicinity of Glasgow School of Art. Castle Toward, so integral to the experiences of comprehensively taught school pupils, fostering a deep sense of artistry in young minds, has been sold off to developers. Transmission Gallery’s future has been challenged by a recent funding cut, still without reasonable explanation from Creative Scotland. And now the Second Fire at Glasgow School of Art seems to have brought the Mack to state of perilous destruction.

Private profits are exceeding the paucity of public subsidy. Castle Toward, the Mack, Transmission Gallery is struggling in this environment. Somehow the movement of capital into property and the lack of regulation in the public sphere are also in the mix and the struggle is everywhere, it seems. The streams and strands of geopolitics, assertive nationalism and missed warnings led to the Second Plane in 2001. We didn’t seem to know what was going on until long after the fact. What I felt then along with many others in 2001, jaw-dropping, speechless, was the involuntary urge to swear loudly in public. Is all that what we’re seeing now, locally and globally, one giant neo-liberal apocalypse unravelling slowly, with Brexit and Donald Trump the more obvious symbols of loss of nerve and rising feelings of disenfranchisement?

Let’s bring the feeling back to the locality of concern. Are the costs involved in making creative spaces and investing in young people’s abilities just too much? I hope not. The Glasgow School of Art needs support more than ever, even if this feels like the front line in a losing battle. But what is the battle? The Second Fire at The Glasgow School of Art is a front line of sorts. Maybe we won’t know what happened until it’s all over. Maybe we will all learn some kind of lesson. But we don’t need walls. We need centres which welcome others. Everyone needs support.

Professor Richardson is in the School of the Arts, English and Drama at Loughborough University.