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Grenfell fire victims remembered with moving ceremony on second anniversary

UK News | Published:

St Helen’s Church was bedecked in green as members of the community turned out for a day’s solemn contemplation.

The victims of the Grenfell Tower fire have been remembered with a moving ceremony on the second anniversary of the tragedy.

Friday marked 24 months since a small kitchen fire in a flat on an estate in Kensington, west London, turned into the most deadly domestic blaze since the Second World War, rendering scores of families homeless and triggering both a public inquiry and a criminal investigation.

Bereaved families, survivors and campaigners made up the hundreds of people who gathered for a memorial service at the nearby St Helen’s Church, across the Westway from the 24-storey block, which set the tone for a day of remembrance.

The blaze claimed 72 lives and more than 70 other people were injured, while some 14 families displaced by the fire remain in temporary accommodation, with one in a hotel.

Sabah Yousef Abdullah, whose wife Khadija Khaloufi was among the dead, said the service was about “paying respect”.

Speaking outside the memorial event, the modern languages lecturer said he had been unable to return to work since his wife died.

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“She’s always with me,” he said.

“I lost the most important part of myself.”

Grenfell Tower memorial
Members of the congregation at the Grenfell memorial service (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Community volunteers wore T-shirts bearing the message “Forever in our hearts”, a motif which continues to adorn banners draped over the charred tower block.

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The order of service said the event was about “remembrance and resilience”.

The names of the 72 men, women and children who died were read, and at the start of the service the congregation sang the hymn Amazing Grace.

A message read out on behalf of Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu spoke of the “agonising memories” left by the fire, but said that anger over the fire had “turned into action for good”.

He added that there were “uncomfortable truths still to be acknowledged”, but a “common humanity” and been created in the community.

Grenfell Tower memorial
The service of remembrance was held at St Helen’s Church, close to Grenfell Tower (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Earlier there were murmurs of agreement as Dr Graham Tomlin, Bishop of Kensington, described the fire as a “national shame”.

“Grenfell happened because we failed to love our neighbours,” he said.

He praised the community for its “patience, dignity, persistence, a refusal to give up” and urged them to keep fighting for justice.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Communities Secretary James Brokenshire were among those present at the service.

Grenfell Tower memorial
London Mayor Sadiq Khan (left) and Housing Secretary James Brokenshire (right) were among the congregation (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

The inquiry’s first report – which focuses on what happened on the night the fire broke out – was due to be published in spring but has been delayed until October.

Inquiry chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick has previously said he does not consider it appropriate to make interim recommendations ahead of the report and any recommendations he makes will be limited to the first phase.

But some survivors have become frustrated that safety recommendations, such as abandoning the “stay-put” policy for buildings more than 10 storeys high, are yet to be implemented.

Now lawyers for some of the affected families are calling again for urgent steps to be taken on “basic fire safety measures” to prevent a similar disaster.

Karim Mussilhy
Karim Mussilhy, whose uncle was killed in the disaster, said they wanted to show they were not going to let people forget those who died (PA)

He told the Press Association: “Our plan is to come together with the rest of the community and be with each other, share some tears with each other, smiles with each other, and put our arms around each other and remember our loved ones and pay our respects.

“We also want to be a presence to everyone else, show them that we are still here and we are still standing strong together, dignified, respectful, we aren’t going to go away, we’re not going to fade away and we’re not going to let others forget our loved ones and for us to be swept under the carpet.”

From early evening on Friday, a multi-faith vigil will be held in the area surrounding the high-rise, followed by the silent walk that has taken place on the 14th of each month for two years.

Grenfell Tower victims, where they were found
(PA Graphics)

Staff at Kensington and Chelsea Council will also gather at the town hall to pay their respects.

Faith leaders, community representatives and politicians gathered at the front of the church service to read out a joint declaration.

They committed to supporting a community where people were “valued” and could “live free from fear”.

In response, the congregation in the church read out together a statement resolving to “work with you as we stand together in the quest for justice and peace”.

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