Memorial service will mark six months since Grenfell Tower tragedy

In the UK, a service of remembrance will take place at St Paul’s Cathedral this morning to mark six months to the day since the Grenfell Tower disaster.

The service to honour those who died in the Grenfell Tower fire will be an opportunity for "words of healing and truth", a bereaved relative said.

Clarrie Mendy (left), whose cousin Mary Mendy and Mary's daughter Khadija Saye died in the Grenfell Tower fire, at her home in London with Ben Gabbitas, whose friend Sheila was also killed. Pic: Victoria Jones/PA Wire

Clarrie Mendy, whose cousin Mary Mendy and her daughter Khadija died in the fire, has been helping shape the multi-faith service, which will focus on remembering the 71 victims of the June 14 tower block blaze.

She said she had asked for the event to be held at St Paul’s Cathedral, exactly six months after the fire, and that she hoped the names of the 53 adults and 18 children who died would be read out as a mark of respect and recognition.

Ms Mendy said: "I think a lot of people are anticipating and looking forward to this service at St Paul’s. I know there’s a lot of expectations. I know there’s a lot of diversity from your normal tradition.

"I just hope this service resonates with people, with the hunger people have spiritually.

"A lot of people, right now there’s no trust in the Government, a lot of people have more faith and trust in their religion."

She went on: "I just hope it measures up to everybody’s expectations and people will ... a lot of family will find healing from the messages, the sermons, and I hope it’s soul-enriching.

"I hope there’s words that will just echo and resonate, and say, ’yes, there is empathy, there is humanity, there is hope for the world’, because I think this service is the platform that can really start to change humanity depending on the right words and - it’s a church, people of god - how they convey the message to mankind.

"I hope I’m just not hoping for too much, but I am expecting a lot from this service, especially words of healing, and of truth."

More than 1,500 people are thought to be attending - around half of which are bereaved families and survivors while the other half includes members of the wider community, volunteers and first responders.

The multi-faith service will include messages of support for the bereaved, offering strength and hope for the future "for those of all faiths and none".

A banner with the Grenfell Heart will be displayed in the domed building, while the Ebony Steel Band, the Portobello Road Salvation Army Band, an Islamic girls’ choir from the Al Sadiq and Al Zahra Schools, and the St Paul’s Cathedral Choir will perform.

A pre-recorded sound montage of anonymous voices from the Grenfell community will also be played.

Following the service, at 11am today, bereaved families and survivors will leave the cathedral together in silence, holding white roses.

British Prime Minister Theresa May, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Communities Secretary Sajid Javid are some of the politicians who will be attending the memorial.

Also present will be Britain’s Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.

Ben Gabbitas, whose close friend and confidante Sheila died in the fire, hailed the British royals’ presence as a constant strand of support through the uncertainty of the past six months.

The 48-year-old said healing would take a long time and that "the service and people’s faith is an important part of what’s getting them through".

Mr Gabbitas said he had been immediately struck by the way the tragedy touched the nation, praising the "almost immediate spontaneous, visceral response of people wishing to help".

He said: "Another unifying force was the presence of the sovereign, which seemed almost immediate again in terms of they hardly needed to be consulted.

"I think the nation at that point appreciated her being present, and particularly William and Harry, and I think that was a unifying force of which there were no politicians who managed that."

The royals’ numerous visits to the community since the fire formed a thread which has led to their presence at the service, he said, adding: "That is wonderful that there is recognition at that level, and as I said it was one of the only unifying forces and at these times I guess we are more thankful we have a royal family and its place within our society."

RBKC leader Elizabeth Campbell will not be present after some families said they did not want the council to attend in an official capacity.

She said: "It is only right that we respect the wishes of those involved in the service.

"It is being held for the people who lost everything on that terrible night six months ago, and it is in memory of those who tragically lost their lives.

"I want them to know that we will be thinking of them. We hope to rebuild trust, but we understand that we have a long way to go."

The council will instead mark the occasion with a minute’s silence at 11am at the town hall.

 

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