Silent procession marks first anniversary of Grenfell Tower blaze which claimed lives of 72 people

Hundreds walk behind wreath reading ‘Humanity for Grenfell’, many carrying pictures of some of the victims

The silent procession marking the   one-year anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire  in London in which 72 people lost their lives. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty

The silent procession marking the one-year anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire in London in which 72 people lost their lives. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty

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Survivors and relatives of those who died in Grenfell Tower returned to the building on Thursday to mark the first anniversary of Britain’s worst residential fire since the second World War.

Hundreds walked in a silent procession behind a wreath that read “Humanity for Grenfell”, many carrying pictures of some of the 72 people who died and most wearing green, the colour that has become associated with the campaign to establish the truth about the tragedy.

The procession started at St Helen’s church in North Kensington after a memorial service for the victims organised by Clarrie Mendy, who lost two family members in the fire.

“Today we pray for all bereaved family members to further receive strength, courage and faith to continue daily,” she told the congregation. “Help us to come to terms, knowing that 72 angels ascended into your heavenly realm on the 14th of June 2017.”

A steel band played Bridge Over Troubled Water, a soprano sang Pie Jesu and a gospel choir sang Lean on Me, an unofficial anthem of the Grenfell survivors. Niles Hailstones, a local musician and community leader, performed a drum lament.

At noon, the congregation observed a 72-second silence in memory of the dead, a mark of respect that was observed at the same time throughout the country. The names of all those who died were read out at the start of the service and relatives lit a candle for each of the victims.

Symbol of pain

Bishop of Kensington Graham Tomlin told the congregation that a determination to prevent another such tragedy must emerge from the ashes of Grenfell.

“Grenfell Tower can remain an ongoing symbol of pain and loss – a monument to our failure to listen and to care for one another – or it can become a symbol of change and renewal,” he said.

“I think today is a really important day for the whole nation to remember Grenfell. We could change a lot of things, we could identify who was responsible, we can make building regulation changes. 

“But unless we ask some more fundamental questions about the way we relate to each other in society and how we care for one another, then we will just go back to the way we normally are.

“I think Grenfell is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to ask some really deep questions about the way we live together, the way we care for each other in society.” 

Labour MP David Lammy, who lost a family friend in the fire, spoke about the qualities of the community that had grown up in good quality public housing that had been built in the decades after the second World War.

“This is a moment when we ask, what happened with that civic, local pride that we had in a home. And we renew ourselves in that quest for justice on behalf of those who died. Justice. Answers. And the healing that flows from knowing never, ever, ever again can people die in a preventable fire and that all of those who live in the surrounding area can be so traumatised by the pain of what they saw that night and what they carry in their hearts now,” he said.

Outside the church, the relatives and survivors formed a procession to walk in silence to Grenfell Tower, now covered in white sheeting with a large green heart on each side of the building.

Before they left, they released from seven wicker baskets 73 white doves, one for each of those who died and another for the victims they fear have never been identified.

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