TOW­ER­ING IN­FERNO

Fire­fight­ers and res­i­dents tell their per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences of the hor­rific fire that turned bustling Gren­fell Tower in Lon­don into a smoul­der­ing ruin.

Reader's Digest Asia Pacific - - Contents - TOM LA­MONT

the first phone call to the emer­gency ser­vices came through from Gren­fell Tower at 12.54am, on June 14, 2017. A faulty fridge had set fire to a res­i­dent’s kitchen on the fourth floor. By 12.56am, two wail­ing fire trucks from North Kens­ing­ton sta­tion were on the way. Gren­fell was less than 1.5 kilo­me­tres away. When the trucks pulled up by the tower there was no indi­ca­tion, yet, that a fire burned in­side. The men un­loaded coils of hos­ing from the trucks, tapped hy­drants for wa­ter and pre­pared to en­ter the build­ing.

Ac­ci­den­tal fires in con­crete highrises are rout ine events. If the build­ings are con­structed and main­tained with a proper re­spect for and dread of fire, the out­breaks are easy to con­trol. Fire­fight­ers re­spond to the call, get in quickly, iso­late the fire on the floor, and put it out.

Fire­fight­ers got in­side Gren­fell Tower and went up to the fourth floor, pass­ing res­i­dents on the stairs who’d been wo­ken from their beds by the com­mo­tion and the smoke. Two fire­fight­ers wear­ing breath­ing ap­pa­ra­tuses broke down the door of the af­flicted apart­ment and trained their hoses on the flames. They doused what­ever burned.

Down­stairs in the lobby, ­vet­eran f i ref ighter Dav id Badi l lo car­ried in ex­tra equip­ment from the trucks. The 44-year-old cy­clist and marathon run­ner had served in the dis­trict for 17 years. Be­fore he be­came a fire­fighter he had been a life­guard at a nearby swim­ming pool – and he knew peo­ple who lived ­in­side the tower. In fire­fighter terms, Badillo was ‘ busy’, mean­ing, he com­bined a de­gree of cheek with an ea­ger­ness to be in first on any­thing dan­ger­ous. He was a doer, a helper – a hurl-him­self-in-er.

Badillo came through Gren­fell’s lobby on his way to fetch more equip­ment from the trucks, when he was stopped by a young woman near the tower’s en­trance. She was a res­i­dent, she ex­plained, and her 12-year-old sis­ter was up on the 20th floor. The young woman was in some dis­tress at the thought of her sis­ter be­ing alone. Their mother was work­ing a night shift. Their fa­ther was out of the apart­ment vis­it­ing a friend. The young woman asked Badillo if she could rush up with him to fetch her sis­ter.

Badillo thought about it. No, you stay here, he told her. I’ll go and get your sis­ter. He found out her name – Jes­sica – and bor­rowed the keys

to the apart­ment. He did not have a breath­ing ap­pa­ra­tus on him, but nev­er­the­less climbed into the lift, press­ing for the 20th floor.

As he trav­elled up the tower, res­i­dents leav­ing the build­ing spoke of see­ing fire on the fifth floor, even on the sixth f loor. To an ex­pe­ri­enced Lon­don fire­fighter, this would not have made sense. A fire in a high­rise ought to be over­matched by the con­crete walls of the apart­ment in which it burned. A fourth-floor fire should re­main a fourth-floor fire.

Badillo’s lift got to the 14th or 15th floor when it stopped, and the doors jud­dered open. Im­me­di­ately a black, blind­ing, silent smoke rushed in around him.

Fire from the fourth f loor had reached an out­side wall of the tower and caught – un­think­ably – the sheer sides of the ex­te­rior. Fat am­ber f lames licked up Gren­fell’s north­east­ern el­e­va­tion. What seemed in­side to be a man­age­able ap­pli­ance fire was catas­trophis­ing, out­side, into a grave threat to these res­i­den­tial Lon­don­ers.

This was a con­crete tower. Con­crete is not f lammable. So re­spon­ders at Gren­fel l spoke of a dis­ori­ent­ing feel­ing – ‘like a dream’ – as they watched the fire gust up and around the tower un­til it was en­gulfed. One of the first po­lice of­fi­cers to ar­rive at the scene would later say “the build­ing was melt­ing”.

The build­ing had re­cently been re­fur­bished, its bolted- on satel­lite dishes stripped from the out­side walls and re­placed by neat squares of in­su­lat­ing pan­elling, so that the build­ing’s 1970s con­crete core – for 50 years plainly and brownly ex­posed – was con­cealed be­hind the bluish sil­ver of new cladding. It was the cladding that was on fire.

Around 350 peo­ple lived in the tower, in one- and- two bed­room apart­ments stacked 24 storeys high. At least 320 peo­ple were in­side.

Wall of Smoke

Most res­i­dents, like Oluwaseun Tal­abi, were asleep. Tal­abi, a mus­cu­lar 30 year old, worked in con­struc­tion and lived with his part­ner, Rose­mary, and their four-year-old daugh­ter in a two-bed­room apart­ment on the 14th floor.

Tal­abi awoke at 1.30am, dis­turbed by shouts from be­low. He sup­posed it was a party. The night be­fore, he’d been wo­ken by a gather­ing on a floor be­low. It was sum­mer and gath­er­ings ran late. Tal­abi looked for the dis­tur­bance from his bed­room win­dow and saw noth­ing. His four-yearold daugh­ter had climbed into her par­ents’ bed while they slept, and Tal­abi lay back be­side her and tried to fall asleep.

There was no au­di­ble com­mu­nal fire alarm in Gren­fell Tower. The build­ing had no sprin­klers. (The law

in Eng­land re­quir­ing sprin­klers in build­ings taller than 30 me­tres ap­plies only to new build­ings.) A build­ing news­let­ter had once de­scribed emer­gency pol­icy in the event of a fire: “Our long­stand­ing ‘stay put’ pol­icy stays in force,” the news­let­ter ad­vised. “This is be­cause Gren­fell was de­signed ac­cord­ing to rig­or­ous fire safety stan­dards.”

As ad­vice, ‘stay put’ does make some log­i­cal sense, at least in a con­crete high-rise. The think­ing, en­dorsed by the fire bri­gade, is that by re­main­ing where they are for as long as a fire is out of sight, res­i­dents won’t f lee from an area of rel­a­tive safety into one of threat. Of course, this think­ing means noth­ing if fire is able to spread up the side of a build­ing, away from its con­crete core.

Tal­abi was roused a sec­ond time, and now he could make out what was be­ing shouted from the base of the tower: “Fire, fire!”

He shook Rose­mary awake and snatched on clothes while she put on a robe. He would not be stay­ing put. In­stead, he picked up his daugh­ter, clasped hands with Rose­mary and ran them all to the front door. They opened it and were met by a wall of dense, rank smoke. It tasted of chem­i­cals, and Tal­abi didn’t think they’d last more than a few gasps of it. So he pulled ev­ery­one back in­side.

They gummed wet tow­els around the edges of the front door. Then Tal­abi gath­ered all the bed­sheets he could. He looked out his bed­room win­dow. The apart­ment was 14 storeys up. He’d col­lected 14 bed­sheets.

Tal­abi ran to the kitchen to try to get eyes on the fire. Bands of flame were torquing around Gren­fell Tower like a wrung cloth. He could see in­ex­pli­ca­ble and con­tra­dic­tory things. Smoke from be­low. Fire from above. Fire fall­ing from above, mak­ing a tsk­tsk-tsk sound as great glow­ing slices of some­thing peeled away from Gren­fell’s stricken up­per floors and dropped past his kitchen win­dow.

The cou­ple went back in­side their bed­room, where they paced and called the emer­gency ser­vices and tried to think. Some neigh­bours joined them in the apar tment, driven out of their own homes by the smoke. Two were brothers, men in their 20s from Syria. One of them no­ticed that Tal­abi had been ty­ing bed­sheets to­gether and he asked why. Tal­abi replied: “Bro... ”

The fire neared their cor­ner of the build­ing. Tal­abi fas­tened the end of his knot­ted bed­sheets in­side the bed­room, fed the re­main­der out the open win­dow, and then climbed out af­ter it. As he hung on the out­side of Gren­fell Tower, his fin­gers curled around the frame of his bed­room win­dow. He told Rose­mary to pass out their daugh­ter. But their daugh­ter, cry­ing and strug­gling, would not let hersel f be sent through. She pushed her­self away from the win­dow frame and Tal­abi, in this

mo­ment saw that his plan – to de­scend hold­ing the bed­sheets in one hand, his daugh­ter in the other – was not go­ing to work.

As his be­lief in the plan failed, so did his strength. He re­alised he could not pull him­self back in­side. He kicked for a foothold be­neath him, but the bui ld­ing’s pan­elling was too slip­pery and his feet wouldn’t stick. He stopped kick­ing and clung to the win­dow frame.

No-Win De­ci­sions

On the 22nd floor, a mother of three of­fered up prayers. On the 17th, a fam­ily re­cited du’as from the Ko­ran. There were peo­ple of all re­li­gions in the tower, peo­ple who did every sort of job, large num­bers of chil­dren and the el­derly. There were teach­ers in there, and pupils, some due in class­rooms the next morn­ing at a school just north of the tower. Gren­fell had a hair­dresser, a caterer, a cleaner, a se­cu­rity guard. A woman on the 16th floor made art in her re­tire­ment, and a man on the 21st made web­sites.

There was an architecture-school grad­u­ate who rented right at the top; a young lec­turer in crim­i­nol­ogy who was bunk­ing with his aunt. The brothers who lived on Tal­abi’s floor were re­cent refugees from the Syr­ian war. A man on the 23rd had moved to Lon­don, decades ago, to es­cape conf lict in Afghanistan. A Su­danese man was vis­it­ing his mother

that night. His body was later found on the ground near the tower. He’d jumped. The man from Afghanistan also jumped, and was found on the ground. The artist on the 16th floor was iden­ti­fied by her den­tal records, the caterer by his DNA.

Peo­ple died in the stair­wel ls; peo­ple died near the lifts; peo­ple died in their homes. They spoke on mo­bile phones to the emer­gency ser­vices and to fam­ily and friends, in any num­ber of lan­guages, un­til lines dis­con­nected or they just fell silent. Rel­a­tives of the mother of three on the 22nd floor would later say her fi­nal words to them were about for­give­ness. “You seemed to know that heaven was wait­ing for you,” they said.

Fire­fight­ers that night led, car­ried, and dragged res­i­dents away from the fire. And they left res­i­dents be­hind to it. They made hun­dreds of no-win de­ci­sions.

The girl on the 20th f loor – the 12-year- old sis­ter of the anx­ious woman in the lobby – was never found by David Badillo.

When the lift that Badillo was rid­ing opened its doors half­way up the tower, he had to inch his way, blind, to the es­cape stair­well. He ran down the stairs to the ground floor, where he re­trieved a breath­ing ap­pa­ra­tus and found an­other fire­fighter will­ing to ac­com­pany him back in­side – back up. They climbed 20 f lights to the girl’s apart­ment. By now, on these up­per storeys, the smoke was so con­cen­trated that re­spon­ders had to put their masks right up against the doors to read the apart­ment num­bers. When Badi l lo and his part­ner found the cor­rect door, it was ajar, as if the young girl – Jes­sica – had al­ready fled.

Nev­er­the­less, the two fire­fight­ers searched in­side, feel­ing their way along the walls, shout­ing, shout­ing,

FIRE­FIGHT­ERS HAD TO AIM HOSES AT ONE OF THEIR OWN TRUCKS, WHICH HAD BEEN IG­NITED BY THE FALL­ING CLADDING

un­til they were con­vinced that ­no­body was in­side, and un­til the air tank on Badillo’s part­ner’s back be­gan to let out a high-pitched whis­tle, warn­ing that air was run­ning out. They had to give up on the 12-year-old girl, or they were go­ing to die.

Badil lo and his part­ner aban­doned the 20th- f loor apart­ment and re­gained the stair­well. They were heat-stressed to the verge of col­lapse when they made it down to the ground.

Firef ighters made hun­dreds of choices that night about whether to help those in peril in the stair­well

or whether to push on past and try to make it to those fur­ther up. The hand­ing over of a fire­fighter’s breath­ing equip­ment to civil­ians (al­ways a dan­ger­ous temp­ta­tion) is for­bid­den by the Lon­don Fire Bri­gade – but it hap­pened and was later for­given, part of a bri­gade-wide amnesty on those ev­ery­day pro­ce­dures ig­nored by fire­fight­ers in this fren­zied, dirty, im­pos­si­ble evac­u­a­tion.

Out­side, fire­fight­ers had to aim wa­ter hoses at one of their own trucks, which had been ig­nited by the fall­ing cladding. For many of the evac­u­at­ing res­i­dents, the most ter­ri­fy­ing part of their es­cape took place once they were out­side, run­ning in front of the build­ing – a no-man’sland of tum­bling metal. Fire­fight­ers be­gan mak­ing shut­tle runs back and forth, fer­ry­ing out evac­uees un­der riot shields.

At 2am and 3am and 4am, hours af ter the first f iref ighters had ar­rived, res­i­dents were st ill trapped. Still wav­ing, still shout­ing: “Help me.”

By 5am, hardly any peo­ple were vis­i­ble in Gren­fell’s win­dows. Fire­fight­ers on the ground held their heads, and panted, and were dis­mally hon­est with one an­other: “We’re not go­ing to get every­body out.” When, ear­lier in the night, they saw a man on the 14th floor, hang­ing from a win­dowsill, knot­ted bed­sheets trail­ing be­neath him, all they could do was scream at him to get back in­side.

Some Got Out, Some Didn’t

A stu­dent on the eighth floor got out – along with an aunt he lived with and all of the neigh­bours from his f loor – be­cause he was awake and able to rouse them when the fire started. “PlayS­ta­tion saved your life,” he would later tell his neigh­bours. A man on the 16th was tele­phoned by a neigh­bour and told: “Get out.” He wrapped a towel around his face and ran.

More than 600 emer­gency calls were recorded from in­side Gren­fell Tower on June 14. Of those calls made be­fore 2.47am, res­i­dents were told to re­main in their apart­ments, per fire emer­gency pol­icy. Af­ter that time, ‘stay put’ was aban­doned and the ad­vice to res­i­dents was to f lee, how­ever pos­si­ble.

A fa­ther of two told his wife and daugh­ters be­fore they be­gan their des­cent: “There is no turn­ing back.”

Af­ter lead­ing his own wife and daugh­ter to safety, a res­i­dent from the 15th f loor couldn’t shake a feel­ing he’d left some­thing im­por­tant be­hind. “My soul is there in that build­ing,” he later told peo­ple. “I don’t think my soul is with me here – it’s there.”

At 7am David Badillo’s sis­ter, Jane, texted a mes­sage to her brother: “Are you OK?”

She’d just learnt about the fire on the news. Badillo was still at Gren­fell, which would con­tinue to burn into the even­ing. By 7am the

MANY VICITMS OF THE FIRE, ES­PE­CIALLY THOSE ON THE UP­PER­MOST STOREYS, HAD CLIMBED UP TO TRY AND ES­CAPE IT

f irst- re­spond­ing f iref ighters had been there for six hours. They were about to be sent home. Badillo replied: “Bit numb.” “Love you,” his sis­ter mes­saged. A few min­utes later Badillo con­tacted her again to ask what they were say­ing on the news. How many peo­ple? Jane said five was the con­firmed num­ber so far. Badillo wrote: “It’s much more than that.”

Rank- and- f ile f irst re­spon­ders were banned from talk­ing to the me­dia un­til in­ves­ti­ga­tions could be com­pleted. But Jane re­ported that when Badillo and the other f ire- f ighters were re­lieved, they were sent for a cup of tea, then de­briefed and sent home. Badillo had rid­den his bike in be­fore his shift, and now he rode it home, the smoul­der­ing tower still in view.

When he got back to his wife and his baby daugh­ter, Badillo tried to sleep, but he couldn’t. He ended up read­ing about Gren­fell on his phone, and while scrolling through his Face­book feed, he saw mes­sages from a pair of brothers named Car­los and Man­fred Ruiz, old friends who he’d worked with as life­guards at the swim­ming pool by the tower.

The Ruiz brothers were search­ing for their 12-year-old niece, who hadn’t been seen since the start of the fire. Badillo talked to them on the phone and they said the girl had lived on the 20th f loor. Her name was Jes­sica.

Some­thing went tight in­side Badillo’s stom­ach then and stayed that way for weeks.

He had t i l l then been reck­on­ing with a dull, free-f loat­ing guilt about his prom­ise to the woman in the lobby – guilt that he’d let down strangers. Now he felt that he’d let down some­one he knew.

By the time Badillo told his sis­ter about it, “he was in bits,” Jane ­re­cal led. “Couldn’t let go, you know?” She told him, “There’s noth­ing more you could have done.” The girl’s ­re­mains were later iden­ti­fied on the 23rd floor.

Many vic­tims of the fire, es­pe­cially those on the up­per­most storeys, had climbed up to try to es­cape it. Jane re­called how Badillo went over and over de­ci­sions he’d made in the tower. On his first trip in the lift, should he have gone up af­ter it got stuck, and not come down? Jes­sica might have been in the stair­well, just one or two floors above, and he could have got to her.

Re­mains and Re­cov­ery

As close as a po­lice cor­don per­mit­ted, a perime­ter ring of tributes grew up around the tower. Pinned to gar­den fences, piled against church walls and stuck to steel bar­ri­cades were pho­tos and mes­sages. The girl who lived on the 20th floor – her full name was Jes­sica Ur­bano Ramirez – was among those vic­tims whose identi f icat ion would take many weeks. Right af­ter the fire, and in the ab­sence of know­ing for sure, posters of her were dis­trib­uted so ur­gently around the neigh­bour­hood that Jes­sica’s face be­came a wrench­ing sym­bol of ex­actly what the night had cost.

It took un­til Novem­ber be­fore in­ves­ti­ga­tors could pro­vide a toll of the dead: 71 peo­ple (later re­vised to 72). Or per­haps more.

The last vis­i­ble hu­man re­mains had been re­moved from the tower by early July, the work af­ter that con­tin­u­ing with fin­ger­tips, with sieves, with ar­chae­ol­o­gists. The Gren­fell fire, at its peak, burned at 980° C. What was left to re­cov­ery work­ers were tonnes of ash.

There was a pos­si­bil­ity that not all those liv­ing in the tower on June 14 were doc­u­mented ten­ants. If there were un­doc­u­mented vis­i­tors, es­pe­cially if they were in the up­per storeys, they might have died with no one left know­ing who they were.

One re­cov­ery worker said that af­ter the fire the apart­ments had “no front doors, no win­dows, all the plas­ter was down, even the stud walls had gone. You might make out a mat­tress, only be­cause of the springs. Some of the porce­lain, like a toi­let seat, sur­vived. There was noth­ing else, only the con­crete walls.”

The res­cuer con­tin­ued: “You could tell that some of the de­ceased were still in those homes be­cause of the pat­terns un­der the rub­ble. Flat, flat, flat and then...” He ges­tured with his hand, draw­ing a level line, then de­scribed a curve. “Like a hump. Un­der the dust.”

On the even­ing of June 16, two days af­ter the fire, there was a vigil be­side the tower. Peo­ple held can­dles and stood in cir­cles around the be­reaved. David Badillo made his way there, in­vited by his friends, the Ruiz brothers. He would be meet­ing Jes­sica’s wider fam­ily for the first time. Badillo had no idea how the girl’s fam­ily would re­act to him. He knew he had tried his best to save her. But as an­other fire­fighter ex­plained, “You know the fire­fight­ers tried their best. But you still had to leave peo­ple in that build­ing. You’re a fire­fighter who left. You got out.”

At the vigil, Jes­sica’s fam­ily held Badillo tight and barely let go. He wept, and told them he was sorry.

As the days and weeks went on, sur­vivors dis­charged from the hospi­tal went to live in ho­tels. So­cial- hous­ing ten­ants had been

promised new homes by the coun­cil, though there were fears about what and where these new homes would be. They’d been through shock, grief, anger.

Now this com­mu­nity was, more than any­thing, ex­hausted.

On July 19, sur­vivors from Gren­fell at­tended a pub­lic meet­ing at coun­cil head­quar­ters. Some were in­vited up to the main cham­ber to speak, but the ma­jor­ity were put in a gallery above. A group of ex­as­per­ated sur­vivors caused a ruckus, try­ing to get down to the cham­ber. Even­tu­ally, they, too, were al­lowed to speak about their ex­pe­ri­ences.

David Badillo was up in the pub­lic gallery at the meet­ing, as a guest of Jes­sica’s fam­ily. Later, Badillo cir­cu­lated out­side the cham­ber, talk­ing to sur­vivors. He no­ticed some­one whose face he recog­nised – some­one whose un­likely es­cape from the tower had been much talked about by fire­fight­ers. Badillo went over and in­tro­duced him­self to Oluwaseun Tal­abi, shak­ing his hand fiercely.

Tal­abi had been stay­ing in a ho­tel with his fam­ily since they’d left the hospi­tal, hav­ing been treated for smoke in­hala­tion.

Tal­abi was last seen by fire­fight­ers cling­ing to his bed­room win­dow, feet scrab­bling, spent. Af­ter that, Tal­abi re­ported, the two Syr­ian brothers in­side his apart­ment reached out and dragged him back through the win­dow. One of those brothers was now dead. He had not made it out. There were three other neigh­bours who’d taken shel­ter in the apart­ment that night. They were dead, too.

Back i nside his apar tment,

Left: Oluwaseun Tal­abi es­caped the fire with his wife and four-year-old child. Right: Jes­sica Ur­bano Ramirez, who lived on the 20th floor, was one of the 72 vic­tims of the fire

Tal­abi looked at Rose­mary, then their daugh­ter, and he thought: Wow. He no longer be­lieved they would get out.

But he had to try. He got Rose­mary to help him tie their daugh­ter to his back. The plan was to go back out the win­dow, this time with Tal­abi’s daugh­ter hitched to him. “We’re just about to go out the win­dow when the fire bri­gade opened the door and they said... ” Tal­abi paused. “I can’t re­mem­ber the ex­act word they told us. ‘Run!’ Or ‘Go!’ Or ‘Es­cape!’”

It was their tone that con­vinced him, “like either you run or you get burnt.” He and Rose­mary clasped hands, and with their child on Tal­abi’s back, they went out the door again. The smoke den­sity seemed to have dou­bled, tripled from ear­lier. And Tal­abi had been con­vinced, ­ear­lier, it would kill them.

They missed the door to the stair­well and had to re­trace their steps. They felt their way, blind, and once in­side the stair­well he found the handrail. “We’re run­ning [down].... We’re tir­ing.... Every breath, you know you’re tak­ing in some­thing dan­ger­ous.... And my child be­hind me.” Tal­abi said that this was the very worst of it: the sound his four year old made as she tried to breathe.

David Badillo (right) stood with the be­reaved, in­clud­ing Ramiro Ur­bano, fa­ther of the miss­ing 12-year-old Jes­sica, at a vigil near the tower a few days af­ter the fire

They stum­bled down past the tenth, past the seventh. They were stumbl ing over bod­ies, he later re­alised.

“I could feel my­self fad­ing ... I’m think­ing, I’m not los­ing my fam­ily, for no­body or noth­ing ... From the fifth floor, I could see a bit of light down there ...

“How I de­scribe it, it’s al­most like a bat­tery on a phone and you’ve got two per cent left... That’s what I felt like. And when I saw that light, it gave me like an ex­tra one per cent of life.”

Those last sec­onds, those last floors down, were only hazily re­called by Tal­abi. The fire­fight­ers ran his fam­ily out the en­trance un­der riot shields. They sat by a tree and stared up at what they’d es­caped.

Tal­abi was al­ready think­ing about the neigh­bours he’d last seen in the apart­ment, weigh­ing as he would for some time what more he could or couldn’t have done, that mis­er­able ac­count­ing that so many who sur­vived Gren­fell would go through.

Tal­abi re­called an el­derly neigh­bour with wa­ter ap­proach­ing him by the tree and telling him, “You’re lucky. You should be thank­ing your God.”

The man was in­ter­rupted, then, by a wail of an­i­mal grief from close by. An­other fam­ily, Tal­abi later worked out, learn­ing the worst. “And the man goes to me: ‘This is why I say you’re lucky’.”

Hold­ing Close

Two months af­ter the fire, about 100 peo­ple from the com­mu­nity gath­ered to com­mem­o­rate the dead and to mark a slight but not in­signif­i­cant way­point in their own re­cov­ery: two months weath­ered.

Among the crowd was David ­Badillo, car­ry­ing his young daugh­ter. He sought out his friend Car­los Ruiz – Jes­sica’s un­cle – and the two men squeezed each other’s necks in greet­ing. At 7pm the group set off ­to­gether on a planned march.

They were silent as they walked through what is by any mea­sure a loud and traf­fic-choked part of Lon­don. The city, in an­swer, fell quiet. Con­ver­sa­tions stopped. Strides were checked and buses halted mid-road. Around the coun­try, shaken coun­cils and land­lords di­rected new scru­tiny at the fire-safety mea­sures in their own build­ings. Cladding, square kilo­me­tres of the stuff, kept be­ing peeled from other high-rises. In North Kens­ing­ton, plans were un­der­way to cover the ru­ined Gren­fell with a tarp un­til it could be de­mol­ished en­tirely.

When they ar­rived back at Gren­fell, Badillo and his daugh­ter got sep­a­rated from the group. The fire­fighter stood aside to let marchers flow by, as though won­der­ing where his place was among them. In the end he walked on, past the tower and to­wards his fire sta­tion, hold­ing his daugh­ter close to his chest as he went.

The fire quickly gusted up and around the build­ing, trap­ping peo­ple in their homes

Res­i­dents, some roused from sleep, wait near emer­gency re­sponse ve­hi­cles

Smoke ris­ing from the build­ing the day af­ter fire en­gulfed the 24-storey tower

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