Survivors of London’s Grenfell Tower fire, and friends and relatives of the 71 people it killed, held vigils and prayed together as they marked the first anniversary of a tragedy that still haunts Britain.
Grenfell Tower, a social housing block that was home to a close-knit, ethnically diverse community, was engulfed by flames in the middle of the night of June 14, 2017, in the country’s deadliest domestic fire since World War Two.
The disaster, which occurred in one of London’s richest boroughs, prompted a national outpouring of anguish over social inequalities, poor quality public housing and neglect of immigrant communities.
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 symbol of the tragedy.
Nearby tower blocks were also lit up in green, as was Number 10 Downing Street, the official residence of Prime Minister Theresa May, a few miles away. A floral tribute from May was placed at a church close to the tower, with a hand-written note saying the victims would never be forgotten.
There were emotional scenes close to the base of the tower, where community members walked silently to a vigil, holding up pictures of those who died.
They 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 vehicle, 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 and local residents came to offer emergency help, an all-night, silent vigil took place.
The silence was broken only when the names of the victims were read out at 1:30am – the time the blaze engulfed the tower a year earlier – and by prayers said on the hour through the night.
In the run-up to the anniversary, the top floors of the charred ruins of the building have been covered with white sheeting displaying large green hearts and the words “Grenfell Forever In Our Hearts”.
A national silence will take place at noon. It will last 72 seconds, one for each victim on the night and for a resident who died in hospital months after being rescued.
Commemorations will also include a silent march on Thursday evening, and religious services at churches and mosques.
The 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.