Tears, hugs and doves as a na­tion mourns Gren­fell

Daily Express - - COME ON ENGLAND - By John Chap­man

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

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