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 have taken part in a silent walk in honour of the 72 people killed in the Grenfell Tower fire a year ago.

Firefighters laid down their helmets and formed a guard of honour as the marchers – carrying banners and wearing green – passed by.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and London Mayor Sadiq Khan joined the event near the tower in West London.

Earlier a silent procession followed a memorial service at a nearby church.

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

The Met Police estimated 5,000 people took part in the evening walk at the end of the day of remembrance for the victims of the disaster.

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Firefighters formed a guard of honour for the walk

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

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

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 72 victims were read out at the memorial service held at St Helen’s Church, near the tower.

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

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.”

Media captionSilent walk marks Grenfell anniversary

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.

White doves were released outside the church after the service.

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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 at a memorial 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.

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

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.”

Jeremy Corbyn later visited the site and wrote a message on a wall in the shadow of the tower saying: “Love and sympathy to all at Grenfell. Together we mourn. Together we overcome.”

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The Labour leader was hugged by a boy after writing a message of support on a memorial wall

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.

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

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

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.

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”.

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Grenfell Tower fire: Silent walk marks first anniversary

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