Grenfell community remembers 72 victims of tragedy five years on

T

he Grenfell Tower community is to come together in memory of the 72 people who died and mourn the losses that “remain heavy in our hearts”.

Tuesday marks the fifth anniversary of the tower block fire in west London on June 14, 2017.

A series of memorial events will be held to pay tribute to the 72 men, women and children who died in the blaze in north Kensington.

A memorial service will be held at Westminster Abbey on Tuesday morning, where the names of the victims will be read out, and tributes paid.

Roses will be laid on the Innocent Victims’ Memorial, and an abbey bell will toll 72 times.

Members of the Grenfell Next of Kin group, which represents those bereaved by the tragedy, said they do not want their loved ones’ deaths to have been in vain.

Raheleh Afraseibi, who lost her mother Fatemeh and aunt Sakineh in the fire, said the “catastrophe is never ending for us”.

She said: “They lost their lives so others could live in safety.

“We don’t want them to just say ‘Never forget’ – we want it cemented in some way.”

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The Grenfell Memorial Wall

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The Grenfell Memorial Wall

/ PA Archive

Among those speaking at the service will be former Channel 4 broadcaster Jon Snow and Imran Khan QC, one of the lawyers representing those directly affected by the tragedy at the public inquiry.

Mr Snow said he was “honoured” to have been invited to speak at “this vastly important remembrance from which we all have so much to learn.”

On Tuesday afternoon, at two o’clock, a 72-second silence will be observed at Westfield shopping centre, after which the names of the 72 victims will be read out over the public address system.

Later, cording around the tower in north Kensington will be removed so survivors, the bereaved and community groups can gather at its base for a multifaith service and lay flowers and wreaths.

Natasha Elcock, chairwoman of campaign group Grenfell United, said: “This week will be a difficult week for everyone affected by the Grenfell Tower fire.

“For many of us the events five years ago are still so raw in our minds and our losses remain heavy in our hearts.”

In the evening, firefighters from across the country will form a guard of honour as members of the community take part in a silent walk starting from the base of the tower.

Pete Wolfenden, a firefighter who responded to the blaze, said: “It’s been five years since the Grenfell Tower fire and the thoughts and wishes go out from all London firefighters and fire control staff personnel to the survivors and friends and family of those who lost their lives in this appalling incident, the worst domestic blaze in living memory.

“We also remember the brave and courageous members of all the emergency services who attended on the night and subsequent days, some of who still suffer ill-health and bear the mental scars of attending that traumatic incident.”

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The Grenfell Tower

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The Grenfell Tower

/ PA Archive

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, said: “Firefighters and the Grenfell community have a bond that was forged in tragedy, and the Fire Brigades Union stands in solidarity with all bereaved, survivors and residents.

“Today, on the fifth anniversary of the fire, it is a time for reflection, and to remember all those who lost their lives, and the loved ones they left behind. Their legacy lives on in the fight for justice.

“The community have faced constant denials from those responsible for Grenfell being covered in cladding as flammable as petrol.

“They have faced a wait for criminal charges that continues to this day. They inspire us all with their relentless fight for justice and we continue to stand in solidarity with them every step of the way.”

London Fire Commissioner Andy Roe said he has found the strength and dignity of the Grenfell community “humbling and inspiring”.

He said that he wanted to make changes to the service to “ensure such a tragedy can never happen again.”

A spokeswoman for campaign group Justice 4 Grenfell said: “Today we stand with the Grenfell bereaved, survivors and community. Forever in our hearts.

“The Grenfell Tower fire has become a symbol of the social inequality and injustice that exists in our country.

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Remembering the 72 people who died

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Remembering the 72 people who died

/ PA Archive

“Seventy-two people lost their lives, many people lost their homes, possessions, families and loved ones.

“The first duty of any government is to protect the lives of its citizens. From the right to life and including the duty to provide adequate housing, these duties are enshrined in law and are where the Government has and continues to fail.”

Labour MP Lisa Nandy said the fire “will remain forever etched in our memories”.

She said the Grenfell community’s campaign for justice has “too long been paved with broken promises”.

The shadow levelling up and housing secretary continued: “Five years after one of the worst disasters of modern times, justice has not yet been served and change has been far too slow.

“Every one of the 72 lives lost that day mattered, and if we believe and mean what we say when we honour them, we must see real action to bring to justice those responsible, raise safety standards and put power back into people’s hands to ensure that such an appalling disaster can never happen again.”

Evening Standard