Grenfell Tower survivors, bereaved and their supporters have staged a peaceful and silent monthly procession around their west London neighbourhood since the tragedy that claimed 72 lives on 14 June 2017. In emotional scenes they continued the tradition with a silent march to a vigil in memory of the victims on the first anniversary of the tragedy. There were emotional scenes close to the base of the tower, as they held up pictures of those who perished in the inferno.
Their quiet dignity seemed to have been mirrored across the country as the close-knit and ethnically diverse community held vigils, prayed, released doves and ate together. The Queen and her new granddaughter-in-law Meghan, on an official visit to Chester in northwest England, were among those who observed a national silence in honour of the victims at midday.
The silence was also observed in the Houses of Parliament and in government buildings. It lasted 72 seconds, one for each of the 71 people who died on the night of the fire, and one for a woman who died in hospital months after she was rescued from the blaze.
Earlier, the England football team, who are in Russia for the World Cup finals, observed a minute’s silence before starting their training session.
The charred ruin of the block, covered in white sheeting, was lit up overnight in green, a colour adopted by the community of survivors and bereaved people as a rallying symbol after the disaster, the worst residential fire since World War Two.
Nearby tower blocks were also lit up in green, as was Number 10 Downing Street, the official residence of Prime Minister Theresa May. A floral tribute from May was placed at a church close to the tower, with a hand-written note vowing the victims would never be forgotten. She had earlier penned an apology to the victims and bereaved after failing to meet them in the aftermath of the tragedy.
The victims included people of all ages and of 19 nationalities. Individual tributes have been paid to them all at a public inquiry into the disaster, painting a portrait of a vibrant community.
As some community members broke their Ramadan fast on Wednesday evening, eating together in a street close to the tower, the driver of a train passing by on an elevated rail line stopped the engines, stepped out of his cabin and raised a green banner. The people below cheered.
At St Clement’s, a church where people fleeing the burning building had gathered on the night of the fire, an all-night, silent vigil took place.
In the run-up to the anniversary, the top floors of the charred ruins of the building was covered with white sheeting displaying large green hearts and the words: Grenfell Forever In Our Hearts. Commemorations also included religious services in local churches and mosques.
A public inquiry into the causes of the fire is not sitting in the anniversary week, out of respect for the victims and survivors.
The blaze is also the subject of a police inquiry which could result in criminal charges related to negligence and breaches of health and safety regulations.
- With additional reports from Reuters