Three years ago on 14 June 2017, in the early hours of the morning, a fire broke out in the 24-storey Grenfell Tower block of flats in North Kensington, West London. The world woke up to the devastating images of that Tower block engulfed in flames. As soon as I could after dropping my son off at school, I raced across London and joined the throngs of people from every aspect of the community coming together to help in anyway they could. I spent three days at the site, documenting the aftermath of the fire, then days photographing the consequential protests and then Memorial service held at St Pauls in December 2017.
On 16 November 2017, following months of forensic investigations inside the burnt out shell of the tower, the death toll was confirmed at 72. This included Logan Gomes, who was stillborn on the day of the fire. Her heavily pregnant mother, escaped from the 21st floor, but suffered severe smoke inhalation on her way down.
The Westway Sports and Fitness Centre became one of the focal points for clothing donations.
The slide show above documents the scenes immediately after the fire. Donations had been pouring in non-stop for about 24 hours. Volunteers sorted the clothing – boxed them up and loaded them on to awaiting vans. However the vans had nowhere to take them as warehouse space was in short supply and none of the local community centres had capacity to take any more donations.
Mixed emotions of the community – shock, grief, anger but most of all resilience.
United in grief, all faiths gathered to pray for those who had perished, on that catastrophic day. Two outdoor services occurred on Sunday 18th June in temperatures above 30C. One, underneath the blackened shell of the tower block, conducted in both English and Arabic and despite being in the middle of Ramadan, Muslims came out to honour the dead. The second, a Christian gospel service, underneath the Westway, took the form of thunderous singing and praying and the release of balloons into the cloudless summer skies.
Just one of the many protests held in London.
Grenfell memorial service at St Paul’s.
On 14th December, exactly six months after the fire, mourners gathered on the steps of St Paul’s after attending a memorial service. Some held white roses, other clutched onto photographs of loved ones who had lost their lives.
“Today we remember with sorrow, with grief, with tears. Today we ask why warnings were not heeded, why a community was left feeling neglected, uncared for, not listened to. Today we hold out hope that the public inquiry will get to the truth of all that led up to the fire at Grenfell Tower…and we trust that the truth will bring justice.” Graham Tomlin, Bishop of Kensington.
“Gone but not forgotten, you are so dearly loved by us all and will be sadly missed by many. May you rest in eternal peace, with love always” Raymond Bernard’s family, known as Moses to his friends, died in the fire aged 63.
Update 14th June 2020.
According to the survivors, nothing has changed.
An estimated 246 buildings still have Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding and the public inquiry has yet to come to a conclusion (hearing stopped due to Covid-19 but will resume 6th July).