Grenfell Tower fire leaves ‘unhealed wound’ over London


Doherty said the disaster was a wake-up call about the area’s problems.

“I knew Grenfell was dangerous and that people had fire safety concerns but I never once lobbied about it or wrote a letter to my [member of Parliament] saying, ‘People are not happy about safety,’ and in a way that makes me just as culpable,” she reflected.

Reminders of the fire remain everywhere in the area around the tower. Teddy bears, T-shirts, and signs cover the fences outside local homes. In the courtyard of a public-housing block, bulldozers clear space for a new community therapeutic garden.

Image: Grenfell Tower memorial
Memorials to the Grenfell Tower victims have popped up around the neighborhood.Ben Stanstall / AFP – Getty Images file

Under a local overpass, residents have created a community remembrance site, including two pianos, a library with shelves of books and couches set up as a living room. The most striking part is a colorful wall filled with murals and messages from the public.

And rather than fading off the radar, the fire has continued to drawn attention from high-ranking lawmakers and members of Britain’s royal family, with Meghan Markle even making a low-key visit to a local mosque to serve food to survivors.

The fire has also served to empower residents, who are demanding involement in future decisions about their housing and the services available to them.

“The system failed us and the tower embodies that,” said Samia Badani, co-chair of a network of local resident associations created after the fire. “If we take ownership then we can recover. We are setting up our own support system.”

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Image: Grenfell anniversary
Families and friends who lost loved ones in the Grenfell Tower fire hold portraits of victims during an anniversary vigil early Thursday.Tolga Akmen / AFP – Getty Images

Badani has helped found The Space, a new community center located less than a five-minute walk away from the tower. Filled with vases of fresh flowers, the center hosts wellness classes, mental health services and opportunities to talk with public-housing officials.

Between 10 and 20 people a day visit the center, according to Badani.

Residents such as Sherlock, who has lived in her apartment for more than 30 years, talk of a new bond between locals. They say people have come together to tackle building maintenance problems that can take months of phone calls and meetings to resolve.

“We are treated like second-class citizens,” she said. “I don’t think that’s changed after the fire but now we have places to go, to protest.”

Local politicians said they are open to greater involvement from residents, though they didn’t elaborate on what that would look like.

“Certainly I support the aspiration of local residents to have more responsibility and the ability to make decisions affecting them, their families and neighborhood devolved locally,” Councilor Judith Blakeman wrote in an email to NBC News.

There is no plan yet for the future of the tower or the site it stands on.

Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council says that the community will decide, though a spokesman didn’t respond to requests for further details on how it will facilitate decisions that will likely be emotional and charged.

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