One Year Later, Britain Remembers 72 Killed in Fire and Faith Groups’ Response

By Service, Catherine Pepinster | Deseret News (Salt Lake City), June 12, 2018 | Go to article overview

One Year Later, Britain Remembers 72 Killed in Fire and Faith Groups’ Response


Service, Catherine Pepinster, Deseret News (Salt Lake City)


The Rev. Alan Everett vividly remembers the early morning hours of June 14, 2017. Flames were engulfing the 24-story apartment building near his church, St. Clement’s in Notting Dale, and he did what came naturally: invite in the weary, fearful and displaced.

“Opening the doors and switching on the lights was the most important thing I’ve done in my ministry,” Everett recalled.

From 3 a.m. onward, neighbors came for hot drinks, food and clothing, all distributed by a team of volunteers who had sprung into action. In the faces of those who had lost homes, possessions or loved ones, Everett saw something rising to the surface.

“On the night of the fire, something very deep was triggered in people,” Everett said. “They had a strong belief that you can find sanctuary in a sacred space. And they needed that sanctuary.”

June 14 marks the one-year anniversary since the fire at the Grenfell Tower in the Kensington neighborhood of West London. The fire burned for 24 hours and took the lives of 72 residents, with more than 200 others left homeless.

Now, Londoners are remembering the tragedy with a sense for what has changed over the past year. A degree of shame stems from growing awareness of causes that suggest the fire might have been preventable. But Grenfell has also produced an alternative narrative about Britain, where there is concern about integration of diverse groups in society and a view that religious belief is in sharp decline and irrelevant.

Footage of the fire shows people escaping from the flames and others screaming in distress and running away. Trapped residents can be seen standing at their apartment windows. Photos of the inferno taken from a distance show a great plume of smoke rising and curving into the air. All of the images eerily recall photos of the World Trade Center on September 11.

But what happened at Grenfell was not a terrorist incident. Evidence is emerging, especially in the past fortnight at the start of the public inquiry into the fire, that it was possibly caused by cost-cutting. Lower-quality, combustible materials were used in the insulation and cladding. The fire doors were old and not up to safety standards. The latest reports have increased the anger about the stark inequalities of life in London and the housing conditions for some of the city’s poorest who also live in one of its wealthiest boroughs. …

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