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Grenfell Tower fire: Silent procession marks first anniversary

Procession after the serviceImage copyright PA
Image caption Relatives holding banners marched to the tower after the service

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

It came after a memorial service at a church near the west London tower where the names of the victims were read out and bereaved families released doves.

The Bishop of Kensington said people were still “recovering” and seeking answers but there was “positivity”.

A 72-second national silence was also held at midday.

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

The silence 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.

Clarrie Mendy, who lost two family members in the fire and organised the memorial 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 St Helen’s Church, which had been decked out in green – a colour adopted by survivors and relatives of those who died.

Image copyright Getty Images

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 said it was a “bittersweet” moment as the community celebrated their unity but mourned those lost.

The 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”.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption 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”.

Walking behind were mourners with single white roses and green heart signs reading “strength”, “love”, “unity”, “grace”, “just us” and “truth”.

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Image caption Hundreds took part in the walk to the base of the tower

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

Grime artist Stormzy and singer Adele, who have been vocal supporters of those affected by the fire, were at the event.

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

In the evening a silent march is planned around the neighbourhood, attended by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

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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Image caption Wreaths were also laid at a memorial at the base of the tower
Image copyright PA

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

A community still holding its breath

Image copyright Reuters

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 were 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.

Image copyright Reuters
Image copyright PA
Image caption London Ambulance Service staff joined people gathering at the foot of Grenfell Tower
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Image caption The anniversary was marked at London Fire Brigade’s HQ
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Image caption 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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Media captionMohammed and Zahra used to live in Grenfell Tower, but home has been a hotel room for the past year

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.

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.”

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.

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