Tears, hugs and doves as a nation mourns Grenfell
SURVIVORS of the Grenfell Tower inferno yesterday gathered to lead a national silence, one year on from the disaster.
The brooding presence of the tower – now a hollowed concrete skeleton cloaked in a white shroud – presided over the sad day of remembrance.
It was bathed in a green glow overnight after the colour came to symbolise the devastating fire that took place on June 14, 2017.
At an intimate ceremony in west London, there were tears and hugs while 73 doves were released in memory of the 72 victims plus “one for the unknown” in case there were more dead. Many people dressed in green as they gathered for a 72-second national silence at midday.
The Soul Sanctuary Gospel Choir opened the ceremony in north Kensington with a touching rendition of Lean On Me.
A community mosaic was then unveiled, followed by the reading of a passage from the Koran.
The names of all the dead – including stillborn baby Logan Gomes and Maria del Pilar Burton, who died in January – were also read out by different members of the community.
After each person spoke, they uttered the poignant words: “Forever in our hearts.”
Banners with green hearts could be seen for miles, while lampposts, railings and zebra crossings in the neighbourhood were festooned with green fabric and a giant floral heart
greeted commuters at nearby Latimer Road station.
Nicholas Burton, a former 19th floor resident who lost his wife Maria following the blaze, was the first of the bereaved families to lay flowers at the scene.
He said: “It was emotional but it felt good because everyone just wanted to hug or say hello.
“I was thinking about my wife during the silence and I got a bit emotional. I’m lucky to have had a bit of time with her.”
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan was among those laying wreaths while singers Adele and Stormzy were also in attendance, having been vocal supporters of families affected by the blaze.
Just after 2pm, a hushed crowd walked along Silchester Road to the tower.
Last night an estimated 5,000 people, including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, joined in a silent march for Grenfell.
Latest figures show that 68 families are still homeless a year after the blaze in the 24-storey tower block.
Many of them are in emergency accommodation, mainly hotels.
Some 52 households are in temporary accommodation and 83 families are in permanent homes.
Tottenham Labour MP David Lammy, who was friends with victim Khadija Saye, criticised the Government for failing to support the community and called for efforts to be “redoubled” in the year ahead.
“It needs to be much, much better,” he said.
“We need to get those people housed and we need to continue to support those in the area that are deeply traumatised.”
Bishop of Kensington Dr Graham Tomlin said there had been an atmosphere of “quiet dignity” in the area.
Former resident Antonio Roncolato, 58, said: “Today is a time to reflect, to raise further awareness and to make sure the world is still listening because we don’t want this to happen ever again.”
The inferno, which started as a small kitchen fire, went on to become the deadliest domestic blaze since the Second World War after cladding on the tower accelerated the spread of the flames.
Last week it emerged that fire chiefs could face criminal charges over the controversial “stay put” advice the brigade gave to Grenfell Tower residents during the inferno.
Tube driver Harvey Mitchell, 58, stopped his train at a bridge to wave a green flag in memory of the victims.
He lost his friend Raymond Bernard in the blaze and said he felt compelled to do something as his train passed over the bridge near the scene of the tragedy.
The tower cloaked in white and, inset, Tube driver Harvey Mitchell
Emotions run high at the Grenfell memorial service. Inset, singer Adele was in the crowd
Staff from the London Ambulance Service lay flowers in remembrance
Friends and family of the victims gather to walk towards the tower block