Grenfell Families Reveal What Today’s Memorial Service Meant To Them – And Where They Go From Here

Exactly six months have passed since a devastating blaze ripped through Grenfell Tower in north Kensington. 

The 24-storey building has come to symbolise more than a preventable tragedy that killed 71 people and left scores more homeless. It is now a symbol of a community united and of the startling inequalities in one of London’s richest boroughs.

But today was a day of remembrance, with hundreds of survivors, bereaved relatives, volunteers and first responders filling the pews of St Paul’s Cathedral on Wednesday morning for a memorial service.

Four attendees told HuffPost UK what today meant to them, and where survivors and bereaved families go from here.

Judy Bolton

Judy Bolton lost her uncle in the fire.

<strong>Judy Bolton, centre, arrives at St Paul's Cathedral in London for the Grenfell memorial service.</strong>

“I think that the run up to the service itself we’ve been just so very busy, I haven’t had time to think.

“And this morning getting ready I actually was in tears. I was in tears because this is the one time where everybody – the bereaved, the survivors, the wider community, the firemen and everybody – will come together for this day of remembrance.

“And I was looking through photos and the order of service from my uncle’s funeral and it just really brought it all home to me. It just made it all very, very real.

“And that, even though this is a remembrance, coming in this morning as we were driving in, we could see the tower and again (I was) crying.

“This is 2017, England and this shouldn’t have happened

“Because this should never have happened. I want to know why my loved ones and why our community have been torn apart like this with no answers.

“And six months on, no homes. Are we really that worthless? So for me, I’m actually really proud to be here today, and to actually feel part of this community to remember this day, but emotionally it is quite hard.”

“And the world is watching and I hope that people understand the plight that we are in right now.

“This is 2017, England and this shouldn’t have happened.’ 

Karim Mussilhy

Karim Mussilhy lost his uncle Hesham Rahman.

<strong>Karim Mussilhy holding a photo of his uncle Hesham Rahman, said 'it feels like it&rsquo;s been six hours' since the blaze, rather than six months.</strong>

Speaking about the moment school children placed rose petals in the cathedral: “It was very difficult to stay strong.

“And the royal family being there as well, we appreciated that a lot.

″[It is] a day to remember our loved ones and to remember that great disaster and to hopefully try to learn from it and move on from it so that we are not sitting here in the future remembering other ones that lost their lives.” 

We shouldn’t really be here today. We shouldn’t be doing this today.

“Our friends and family should never have died… but it’s great that we are all here together, remembering them.”

Speaking about what it was like to come out of the cathedral to face the photographers today: “It was a very special moment for us to all be together with pictures of the loved ones that we lost and to be shown as a unified community – family – which is what we are.”

Clarrie Mendy

Clarrie Mendy lost her cousin Mary Mendy and Mary’s daughter Khadija Saye.

<strong>Clarrie Mendy (left) joins people leaving after the Grenfell Tower National Memorial Service</strong>

Speaking before the service: “I hope there are some spiritual words of wisdom and healing and I just hope there aren’t going to be empty words and that they are going to be followed up meaningfully.

“And I pray to god, if there’s a Father Christmas, make sure every survivor is housed this Christmas.

“That’s what I’d like to see. Words are wonderful but I want to see the action behind it as well. I was here for the rehearsal yesterday [Wednesday]. It was very emotional. There were beautiful words.”

Speaking after the service: “We all know what happened, it was just an injustice. It didn’t need to happen.

Here we are six months later and still nothing has happened

“It was incompetence, greed.. disregard, and we need to bring this into the first part of the public inquiry.”

“Had they [the residents] been listened to, I wouldn’t be here today.

“I just pray that this is a wake up call for the nation and a shake up call for the government and let them be seen doing the right thing. Talk is cheap. Action is what we need.”

“It’s been six months and nothing’s been addressed. It was illegal to give people these keys to a house in such a condition. That’s against your basic human rights.”

“This service has been good but it’s really invoked a lot of anger. It’s brought it all back to people and here we are six months later and still nothing has happened.” 

Shah Aghlani

Shah Aghlani lost his mother, Sakina Afrasibi, and his aunt, Fatima Afrasibi.

<strong>Shah Aghlani (centre) with his daughter&nbsp;Elyana and&nbsp;wife Marzeyeh.</strong>

“It was a day to remember and for the community to come together again.

“And we saw the communities from all faiths together here.

“It was an excellent service. I think it was a good remembrance, very touching.”

“We hope for change.” 

We saw the communities from all faiths together here

“We don’t deserve this.

“We need to change the rules and regulations so these things don’t happen in the future.

“So we hope to change things.’