Grenfell Tower fire: Silent walk marks first anniversary

Silent walk near Grenfell TowerImage copyright
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About 5,000 people are estimated to be taking part in a silent walk in honour of the 72 people killed in the Grenfell Tower fire a year ago.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and London Mayor Sadiq Khan are among those marching past the tower in west London.

Firefighters laid down their helmets outside their station and formed a guard of honour as the marchers passed.

Earlier in the day hundreds took part in a silent procession following a memorial service at a nearby church.

The Met Police estimated 5,000 people were taking part in the evening walk.

Silent walks have been held in the neighbourhood on the 14th of every month since the fire.

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Firefighters formed a guard of honour for the walk

A 72-second national silence was held at midday as part of the anniversary events.

It was observed across the country, including at government buildings, Parliament and by the Queen and the Duchess of Sussex on a visit to Chester, where the monarch wore green in honour of Grenfell victims.

Media captionTube driver stops train and waves green flag in solidarity for Grenfell

The names of the victims were read out at the memorial service at St Helen’s Church, near the tower.

Clarrie Mendy, who lost two family members in the fire and organised the service attended by several hundred people, said: “It’s a service of healing, community, inclusivity and solidarity, to know we are not alone.”

Bereaved families were invited to light candles in memory of their loved ones at the church, which had been decked out in green – a colour adopted by survivors and relatives of those who died.

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Some of the people on the walk stopped to hug the firefighters as they passed

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The church wads decked out in green for the service

There were green ribbons tied around pillars, scarves on seats and banners were hung for the service, where there was African drumming and Amazing Grace was sung.

Addressing the service, Labour MP David Lammy, whose family friend died in the fire, said it was a “bittersweet” moment as the community celebrated their unity but mourned those lost.

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MP David Lammy described the service at St Helen’s Church as “bittersweet”

White doves were released outside the church after the service.

Bishop of Kensington Dr Graham Tomlin said there was an atmosphere of “quiet dignity, a sombre mood in the air”.

He said people were still “recovering” and seeking answers but there was “positivity”.

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Doves were released outside the service

Ms Mendy then led the silent procession towards Grenfell Tower, accompanied by other bereaved relatives carrying a large floral display spelling “Humanity for Grenfell”.

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Relatives holding banners marched to the tower after the service

Wreaths were laid by the London mayor and the Duke of Kent during another service close to the base of the tower.

Singers Stormzy, Adele and Marcus Mumford, who have been vocal supporters of those affected by the fire, were at the event.

Nicholas Burton, whose wife Maria del Pilar Burton died in January and is considered the 72nd victim of the fire, said he chatted with all three singers during the day.

He said: “I went into the sports centre and I hear ‘Hi Nick’ and it’s Adele calling me over, who introduced me to her new husband and then Marcus comes over and we had a hug, then Stormzy comes over – they have all been unbelievable.

“I was thanking them for all they’ve done behind the scenes that no-one knows about.”

Media captionPeople fell silent across the country, including the Queen and Meghan

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Stormzy joined the mourners for the service at the base of Grenfell Tower

Ahead of the services, the tower and other London buildings were lit green at 00:54 BST, the time the fire was first reported in a flat on 14 June 2017.

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The victims’ names were also read out at 01:30 BST during a vigil at another church in the area – St Clemet’s where people fleeing Grenfell Tower had gathered on the night of the fire.

Prime Minister Theresa May wrote on Twitter that she wanted to “pay tribute” to the victims’ “family, friends and loved ones for the strength and dignity they have shown”.

A community still holding its breath

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By BBC reporter Alice Evans, in North Kensington

Hundreds of people gathered in the shadow of the charred tower block to pay their respects.

Young and old, the survivors and bereaved wore bright green scarves to match the green heart that’s become the symbol of this community’s solidarity and integrity.

Many of the fences, bus stops and lampposts displaying the same vibrant ribbons still have tape markings on them – ghostly reminders of the missing person posters that a year ago today were hastily, hopefully being stuck on any free space.

At the commemoration event people wept together, clutching each other as each of the 72 victims’ names was read out one at a time so that they could be remembered “as individuals, and not merely as numbers”.

The neighbourhood then led the nation into a silence.

Some may welcome this time as a chance for quiet reflection – a peaceful moment in which to pay respects. Here beneath the blackened shell of the tower, it did not feel peaceful though.

It was more like a grief-stricken, still-shocked absence of sound as if the community was holding its breath.

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London Ambulance Service staff joined people gathering at the foot of Grenfell Tower

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The anniversary was marked at London Fire Brigade’s HQ

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The England football team held a minute’s silence in Russia

The tower was recently covered in white sheeting with a large green heart featured on all four sides at the top of the block.

The heart symbol was created by the Grenfell Speaks campaign group to symbolise hope and unity after the fire.

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Wreaths were also laid at a memorial at the base of the tower

Natasha Elcock, who was one of the last residents to be rescued from the tower and is now a member of the survivor group Grenfell United, has praised the community’s response to the fire.

Media captionThe BBC’s Andrew Bomford hears from children affected by the Grenfell fire who are having therapy

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, she said: “We could have been the most angry community out there because of what happened, but we’ve chosen to be dignified, be calm.

“Ultimately, that’s earned us respect.”

Media captionMohammed and Zahra used to live in Grenfell Tower, but home has been a hotel room for the past year

Ahead of anniversary events, fires broke out at two high-rise blocks in Glasgow and London.

Eight people were rescued from a building in Gorbals area of Glasgow, while the blaze in a 20-storey block in Lewisham led to 150 residents being evacuated.

Grenfell Tower fire: Silent walk marks first anniversary

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