Last week, a mosaic commemorating the people who died in the Grenfell Tower fire was unveiled at the foot of the tower.
Marking the one-year anniversary of the tragedy, the mosaic was made by members of the local community, its intricate tiles depicting green hearts linked together. As Ismahan Egal, who came up with the design, explained to ITV News: ‘It was an artistic way to represent what we were all doing.’
‘You’ve got the interlocking arms and it was almost like we were forming human chains in those early days. You were passing boxes along and passing bottles of water and it was just some way of giving people a chance to take part in something really beautiful.’
Yesterday, hundreds took to the streets of West London to participate in a silent walk to remember the victims of the fire. The nation joined the marchers in a 72-second silence, one for each person who lost their life that day.
While the event was a sobering occasion, it reflects a truth that has become evident in the wake of Grenfell. When a community is in trouble, people will do what they can to help it. We saw this in the incredible donations that poured in for Grenfell. We saw it in the streets below the scorched shell of the tower, where volunteers handed out water bottles, blankets and other supplies.
We also saw it in local mosques and churches, where people were given food, shelter and support when they had no place else to turn. According to one report, at least 15 faith centres in the nearby area opened their doors to those affected by the fire. Memorably, Muslims in the local area were thought to be some of the first to react to the night-time blaze last June, as they were finishing iftar events having fasted all day for Ramadan.
But these acts of kindness weren’t just provided by neighbours. Many people went out of their way to extend a hand. Like Zahra Choudhry, a student midwife who drove from her home in Hounslow to do whatever she could to help. Even though the medical field she was studying didn’t feel applicable to the needs of Grenfell’s victims, Zahra soon found her presence was more than needed.
As her family is from Pakistan, Zahra can speak Urdu, Punjabi and Hindi. Because of this, she could provide valuable lines of communication with the area’s diverse residents – like the elderly diabetic who needed insulin or the young woman who needed sanitary pads. In the end, Zahra ended up volunteering for over three weeks.
We mustn’t forget the tragic cost of Grenfell, just as we cannot deny the injustice people feel in the wake of the fire. But even as we work to come to terms with the events of 14 June 2017, we can take some comfort in the generosity, resilience and kindness that followed the tragedy..