Silent trib­ute Fam­ily and sur­vivors lay roses at tower

The Guardian - - NATIONAL - Robert Booth

More than 100 peo­ple – ei­ther sur­vivors of the fire or close rel­a­tives of the vic­tims – laid white roses at the foot of Grenfell Tower yes­ter­day in an in­tensely emo­tional cer­e­mony to mark the first an­niver­sary of the tragedy.

The cer­e­mony was or­gan­ised by the sur­vivors’ group Grenfell United as an intimate gath­er­ing for those most af­fected by the blaze that killed 72 peo­ple. The an­niver­sary has been dreaded by many peo­ple, who re­main deep in grief and tor­mented by the fire and its af­ter­math. But they came in large num­bers clutch­ing roses and wear­ing green scarves or green items of cloth­ing, some in T-shirts bearing pho­tos of fam­ily mem­bers they lost.

Among the mourn­ers were the sur­viv­ing mem­bers of the Chou­cair fam­ily, six of whom died in the blaze; and the Wa­habi fam­ily, who also lost six loved ones.

The first per­son to lay a rose was Ni­cholas Bur­ton, whose wife Maria Del Pi­lar Bur­ton died in Jan­uary, the last vic­tim of the fire. Others in­cluded Karim Mus­silhy, who lost his un­cle He­sham Rah­man.

“Last night was the tough­est, when it re­ally started to hit home,” Mus­silhy said. “We had a rest­less night. I don’t have an emo­tion I can de­scribe, I am just be­ing right now. I know it sounds wrong, but I want this to just go quickly.”

Through­out the 90-minute cer­e­mony, the crowd faced the burntout tower that was once their home, but is wrapped in plas­tic topped with a green heart – the sym­bol of Grenfell’s sol­i­dar­ity.

Has­san Has­san, whose wife Ra­nia Ibrahim, 31, and her daugh­ters Fethia Has­san, four, and Ha­nia Has­san, three, were found in their flat on the 23rd floor, un­veiled a mo­saic that the sur­vivors plan to ex­tend year after year. Also sup­port­ing the be­reaved was Stor­mzy, the rap­per who has backed the sur­vivors’ cam­paign for bet­ter rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the public in­quiry, and Adele, the singer who sup­ported vic­tims in the days after the fire.

A poem was read out that com­pared the sur­vivors to “di­a­monds in the rough”, gems that even stress can­not crush. In one of the most haunt­ing mo­ments, Mo­hamad Ayub Asif re­cited verses from the Qur’an, that vi­brated in the air around the tower. The Soul Sanc­tu­ary gospel choir sang Some­thing In­side So Strong and Bridge Over Trou­bled Wa­ter.

As the names of the dead were read out be­fore a two-minute si­lence, the strength shown by so many sur­vivors be­gan, un­der­stand­ably, to crack. The tears and sobs em­anated from across the assem­bled crowd, and nurses and am­bu­lance work­ers moved dis­creetly among them to of­fer as­sis­tance.

Then came the quiet. The only sound was the wind rustling in the trees and the quiet hum of traf­fic. It hardly seemed long enough to re­flect on the loss.

There was an awk­ward moment early on when some of the dig­ni­taries gath­ered in a seated en­clo­sure while the sur­vivors stood. They in­cluded Stu­art Cundy, the com­man­der of the Metropoli­tan po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion; Barry Quirk, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Royal Bor­ough of Kens­ing­ton and Chelsea; and the Duke and Duchess of Kent.

“You need to turn the ta­bles on these peo­ple,” said one frus­trated sur­vivor. “Why don’t they stand up? It’s not their day.”

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