I wanted to visit Grenfell for a while, the fire happened in Ramadan 2017 and there was an amazing outpouring of support from the community straight away. I decided to wait for it to calm down before I visited the area. I wanted to go at the beginning of the summer holidays but I became ill so i went towards the end. I want to share some reflections of the day.
For those that don’t know a fridge exploded in a flat around the 3rd floor of a tower block of flats which caused a fire that led to the entire tower going up in flames, it’s 24 stories high. Everyone lost their homes, all of their belongings and there was a lot of loss of life.
We took the tube to Latimore road station and you can see the tower clearly from the tube and station, especially the station. It’s the first time I saw it in person, It’s a lot different to seeing TV images. Instead of walking down to Latimore road church where many people had come and still come to give donations and assistance we walked around the back way.
The area is a mix between council estates and expensive houses opposite each other. It’s the richest borough in the world, this why people ask ‘if this can happen here, then what about even poorer areas?’.
We walked by the leisure centre where people who escaped the fire were sleeping. It’s very surreal seeing the tower, a lot of roads are blocked off and there’s a police presence. I automatically remembered tweets I saw on Twitter in the night. We were awake because it was Ramadan, we were eating and praying. I saw the fire in a video and assumed it would be contained and went to sleep. We woke and it was disbelief to see what had unfolded.
I remember tweets and videos of people saying they were trapped in the building. A Muslim woman on the 24th floor with her kids video’d, she opened her door and showed the black smoke and went onto the balcony and showed the flames coming up the side of the building, she was making dua (invocation/prayer) but she never got out. It stirs emotions recalling these memories.
There’s a very eerie mood in the area. Sullen, sombre, quiet, sad, tired, people going about their daily lives with this eye sore hanging over them reminding them of what happened that night. I saw a woman walking she looked at the building she had a look of shock and sadness and made dua. This is the funny thing, you don’t get used to looking at the building, every time you look at it you’re shocked. The size and the scale of damage and loss of life due to greed.
We visited Al Manar mosque which is quite a bit of a walk away from the tower. People had gone their for shelter and people were donating and helping also. They are still working in their sorting clothes etc for Syria, Grenfell and others so those who can help should.
Muslim brothers from east London acted quickly when the fire started and came to area with water, it started a movement of support from the community. Good begets good, it causes a ripple effect.
There are photos of missing people men, women and very young children all around the area. It’s very sad, emotional and angering how this happened. We visited Latimore road church also.
There are flowers, posters, candles, signs, writing, paintings, poems, ribbons, teddies etc all around the area aswell. People expressing their sorrow, anger, injustice, looking for justice, support, grief.
The area feels in darkness at the same time people were talking to us and greeting us, being polite and friendly.
This particular painting caught my eye.
This was a crime committed against the poor in the richest borough in the world because they do not care about the poor. The handling by the government of the survivors after the fire was atrocious and they are still handling the whole thing poorly. They deferred their action due to the community support but it is their duty.
Accountability has yet to start. Many people believe it is due to improper cladding material applied to the outer side of the building which was flammable and used to save money by a company that was outsourced by the council/government. It was applied to make it stop looking like an eye sore to the rich which is ironic now because that is what it has become at the expense of people’s lives.
I don’t know how long the enquiry will take and who will be held responsible, people definitely need to be. I don’t have much confidence and trust in the process nor does the community because things have not been transparent from the get go and past enquiries have produced very little justice.
I don’t know how many have died or are missing still and presumed dead. It is the duty of our government to help those that need it the most, not just catering to the rich and to be held to account for their failings.
Places of worship in the area the churches, the mosque were the first to open their doors to help the community, imagine if we didn’t have these places. Let’s not let them die out or let them get rid of them. Religion has a firm place in 21st century Britain in this diverse country.
I would advice people to visit the area donate their time and help how they can. What I saw was they weren’t taking anymore physical donations but it’s always good to give money and your time.
The luckiest people are those that lost their house and all their possessions. Imagine losing 5 members of a family in one go.
May Allah grant justice in this life and the next, may he ease their pain and sorrow, may they be granted an abundant amount of patience. May he protect them and us and may we learn from this and something like this never ever happen again.
It puts into perspective our own minor problems and how in an instant everything that we complain about can be taken away from us. It’s not wrong for us to have grievances but not to let it over take our gratitude.
When we were leaving and walking back to the station a black woman with friends and children walking to the station in front of me gave a Muslim woman in hijab with a child in a pram one of their balloons. The Muslim woman looked at her with surprise and gratitude and the woman smiled and said it’s okay. It was a nice image to see as I was leaving the area.