LONDON – In the shadow of the Grenfell Tower in London, the pain is as fresh as the newly laid flowers for the dead.
A year ago, the residential building was destroyed by a fire that killed 72 people. It was the biggest loss of life in a fire in British territory since the Second World War, a horror that left the neighborhood and the country in shock.
On Thursday, survivors, grieving families and people across Great Britain celebrated the anniversary of a local tragedy is also a national shame, one for which the blame is still being assigned and marketed. Was Grenfell a tragic accident, the product of reduced government costs and lax security standards, or the indifference of the authorities to people who lived in public housing?
"I do not see this as a tragedy, I see it as an atrocity," said Hissam Choucair, who lost six family members in the fire, in a public inquiry last month.
In the West London neighborhood around Grenfell the victims were remembered in vigils and religious services, before a silent march and a dinner organized by local Muslims. The relatives of the dead placed flowers next to a memorial wall near the base of the tower, along with the survivors, the mayor of London Sadiq Khan and the musical stars Adele, Stormzy and Marcus Mumford, of the band Mumford and Sons.
The tower and other London buildings were illuminated during the night in green, which was adopted as a memory color. At noon, Queen Elizabeth II, dressed in green, joined the British throughout the country to observe a minute of silence for the dead.
Antonio Roncolato, who lived on the tenth floor, said the anniversary was "a time to reflect and become aware and make sure that the world keeps listening, because we do not want this to happen anymore".
A year later, the area around Grenfell echoes the sounds of construction. The ruined tower, which was for months like a black tombstone on the horizon, is covered with white sheets. A green heart and the words "Grenfell forever in our hearts" are emblazoned on top.
Bulletin boards and nearby walls carry handwritten tributes, expressions of regret and promises of resolution: "RIP to the fallen"; "I love my uncle Ray"; "RIP Yas"; "We will not fail!"
The flowers, candles and used teddy bears that were left in memory of the dead are attended by local volunteers. A note from Prime Minister Theresa May, attached to a wreath of white roses, promises: "They will never be forgotten."
The fire started shortly after 1 a.m. from June 14, 2017, in the kitchen of the fourth floor apartment of Behailu Kebede. Kebede woke the neighbors in his apartment and called the firemen, who soon arrived.
It is assumed that the high-rise apartment towers are designed to prevent the fires in the apartments from spreading. But in a matter of minutes, the flames escaped Kebede's apartment and ran down the outside of the 25-story tower like a fuse on.
Many residents fled, but some on the upper floors observed the official fire safety councils and stood still. The fire brigade changed the guide at 2:47 a.m. At that time, the only stairway in the building was full of smoke and treacherous.
Several people died trying to escape. Others perished in their homes while waiting to be rescued or died in the apartments of the neighbors where they had taken refuge. Three people were found dead outside, after falling or jumping from the tower.
Rania Ibrahim, who died with her two young daughters on the 23rd floor, broadcast her last hours of fear and prayers on Facebook. Mohamed Amied Neda, 57, who had fled the Taliban in Afghanistan to build a life in Britain, left a voice message for his family: "Goodbye, now we are leaving this world, goodbye, I hope I did not disappoint you Goodbye everyone. "
When the sun came up, a building that could be seen miles away was a smoky, blackened shell. Hundreds of people were homeless and dozens were dead, although the destruction by the heat had been so great that it would be months before the police were sure how many: 70 died that night, plus a premature baby, Logan Gomes, who was born died later than day. María del Pilar Burton, a 74-year-old resident on the 19th floor, was hospitalized after the fire and died in January.
Local government workers, police and volunteers rushed to help, installing temporary shelters and carrying clothing and food, money and help for the hundreds of people displaced from the tower and nearby buildings.
Soon the affliction was joined with anger: to the local authorities in Kensington and Chelsea, property of the building; in the tenant administration organization that executed the tower; and in the British Conservative government, seen as distant and indifferent.
Many residents said they had complained about poor security and maintenance and were ignored because the tower was home to a largely immigrant and working class population. A block of public housing in one of the richest districts of London, two steps from the expensive boutiques and elegant houses of Notting Hill, came to symbolize a divided and divided Britain.
Anger is still visible on the walls around Grenfell. Mixed with tributes to the dead are the words "TMO = terrorists" – a reference to the tenant administration organization – and the expletives directed at the prime minister.
May acknowledged this week that the government had been too slow to act. He promised that the survivors would get "the homes and support they need and the truth and justice they deserve."
After the fire, the government promised to immediately re-house all the displaced within three weeks. But some residents spent months in hotels, and many are still in temporary accommodation. May said on Wednesday that 183 of the 203 affected families accepted offers of new homes, although most have not yet moved.
A public investigation conducted by a judge began last month. It will take 18 months and you will see the causes of the fire, its response and Britain's high-rise construction regulations. But some survivors are critical because they will not investigate broader issues around social housing and social policy.
The testimony has already been condemnatory. A report by fire safety engineer Barbara Lane listed multiple safety flaws, including the aluminum and flammable polyethylene liner installed on the tower's façade during a recent renovation.
Stephanie Barwise, a lawyer for some of the survivors, said the siding helped the flames spread "faster than dropping a match in a barrel of gasoline."
Grenfell security failures have national implications. More than 300 towers around Britain have a similar fuel lining. The government says it will spend 400 million pounds ($ 530 million) to dismantle the lining of publicly owned skyscrapers.
Questions have also been raised about whether lives were lost due to the "permanence" advice of the fire department.
Police are considering charges of corporate involuntary manslaughter in the fire, but no one has been charged.
Tony Travers, a government professor at the London School of Economics, said the disaster was probably the result of "system failure" rather than a single cause.
"It is likely that there is not a single guilty person or institution, but rather a chain of events that together led to a catastrophic failure," said Travers.
Even if the investigation identifies causes and who deserves to be held accountable, the formal review is unlikely to end Britain's examination of a disaster with victims from 23 countries: taxi drivers and architects, a poet, a Young acclaimed artist, retirees and children is with a bright future.
"It will go bad for the earth that left these people so exposed to such trauma and death," Danny Friedman, a lawyer for some of the families and survivors in mourning, told the investigation.
"In the end," he said, "the burning of the Grenfell Tower is an example of how inequalities of political, legal and economic power can kill people."