‘The humanity of the community is what shone through amid horror of Grenfell’

This was Grenfell Tower one year ago on the morning of June 14, 2016.

The fire was still burning. Just as it was dying down to black, acrid smoke, the wind would reignite it. Sheets of burned-out cladding lay in the road. There was no birdsong.

The street was alive with people carrying boxes and dragging trolleys of water and blankets as the volunteer-led relief effort unfolded.

Walking twice round the police cordon told me there was no one in charge. No one. Just the shattered silhouettes of firefighters going in again and again or resting briefly on the grass, heads in blackened hands.

And something else struck you. This was an extraordinary community. The churches, mosques, community centres, everyday people who’d been volunteering all night.

We knew we were looking at a mass grave. “This is mass-murder,” people said.

“We died in there because we don’t count. That cladding was put on to make the poorest place in Kensington look nicer for its rich neighbours.”

Everyone was talking about resident Ed Daffern’s prophetic blog, that foretold this. As Ed says: “Everything that happened could have been prevented.”

I met a woman asking for news of her sister who had been on the 21st floor. Later, I saw her screaming and knew she had found her answer.

That day, children I didn’t yet know were being brought down alive. One was Naila El Guenuni, now 12, who was on the 18th floor and spent weeks in a coma.

Since that day I have been to Grenfell many times and come to know its wonderful people.

That the community is still fighting for justice matters not just to them but all of us. But today is about remembering 72 people with hopes, dreams, friends and all the other things that make us human.

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