Grenfell Tower: Tears flow at touching church service marking one year since devastating fire

‘We won’t grieve alone'

Harriet Agerholm
Thursday 14 June 2018 21:19 BST
Clarrie Mendy leads a procession of mourners on the one year anniversary of the fire
Clarrie Mendy leads a procession of mourners on the one year anniversary of the fire

Hundreds of mourners have paid their respects to the 72 victims of the Grenfell Tower fire at a church service marking the tragedy's first anniversary.

The ceremony was followed by a silent procession, with many marchers dressed in green, the colour that has come to symbolise the events of 14 June 2017.

They held heart-shaped balloons, homemade signs and wreaths as they walked quietly from St Helen’s Church to the base of the plastic-covered tower in west London.

The memorial service at St Helen’s Church was full to capacity (Getty)

Earlier, the church which was decorated inside with green ribbons and scarves, had been full to capacity and crowds of people gathered outside to listen to the service via speakers.

Local MP Emma Dent Coad, Labour politician David Lammy and housing minister Dominic Raab all attended the service.

At noon a silence fell across the pews, broken only by the sound of quiet sobbing. The silence was also observed at government buildings, parliament and by the Queen on a visit to Chester, where she wore green in honour of the Grenfell victims.

Benches at the front of St Helen’s church were reserved for families of those who died.

Grenfell Tower: One year on

The service was organised by Clarrie Mendy, whose relatives Mary Mendy and Khadija Saye died in the fire. Addressing mourners, she prayed for strength and help coming to terms with the knowledge that “72 angels ascended into your heavenly realm on the 14th of June 2017”.

Tottenham MP Mr Lammy, a friend of Ms Saye, who was a gifted photographer, recalled her beauty and “all that she had to offer this country”.

He said: “I think when I look at their [the victims’] faces, of the humanity of our country – black, brown and white, and all of those possibilities that have been taken from us."

He added: “Justice, answers and the healing that follows from knowing never, ever, ever again can people die in a preventable fire, and all of those who live in the surrounding area can be so traumatised by the pain of what they saw that night and what they carry in their hearts now as a consequence,” he said.

He described the memorial service as a “bittersweet” moment, as the community was mourning but was also united.

Ambrose Mendy, who was also bereaved by the fire, said: “We won’t grieve alone, nobody will grieve alone, because we won’t allow them to.”

The service featured performances from Notting Hill Carnival regulars the Ebony Steelband, a gospel choir and opera singer Nancy May, as well as traditional readings and prayers.

Hundreds of white roses were handed out close to the service’s end to the crowds of people gathered outside the church.

Relatives and friends released 73 doves, which Ms Mendy said represented the 72 who died in the blaze and one “unknown” person.

However, many in the North Kensington community remain sceptical about the official death toll.

Press Association contributed to this report

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