Grenfell Tower: covered but not forgotten

A white sheet over the charred building covered but not forgotten

By Heeral Pattni | @heeral_p

The white sheet that now covers Grenfell Tower is a necessary step in healing. But, it potentially paints the tragedy in a more subtle light than it should be remembered.

A few days ago, I found myself strolling through the streets that weave around Latimer Road station in North Kensington. My pace slowed down significantly from the usual, blind hurriedness that rushes people through the streets of London. Here, while passing the many tributes and memorials to the victims of the Grenfell fire tragedy, which took place just over a year ago, an evident stillness washed over me.

The energy in the Latimer Road area is noticeable. It is a mixture of both resilience and mourning, of unity and anger. Those who walk through the streets do so ordinarily, but not without the overwhelming urge to look up at the Grenfell Tower, which now stands covered in a white sheet with a banner at the top, boasting a green heart and words to honour the victims.

For those who come into contact with Grenfell Tower every day, whether passing by in close proximity, or as a view from the neighbouring buildings or roads, the recently covered building is something of a relief. The white sheet that now covers what used to be the charred remains of people’s memories is a plaster on a glass crack for those who are still hurting.

Those who witnessed and experienced the blaze will never forget the injustice and pain that the fire brought with its flames. Therefore, for them, the white sheet over the inescapable Tower is a necessary step in healing and recovering from the trauma that they endured, and continue to feel today.

Yet, the banner at the top of the tower reading, “Grenfell, forever in our hearts”, it is still a point of concern for those in the area. Signs on the streets read, “measures put in place to make Grenfell Tower look better – no measures put in place to keep residents safe”.

Of course, the victims of the tragedy will forever be in our hearts, but covering up the Tower itself with words of tribute is nowhere near enough to reconcile the damage caused, physically and psychologically, to those close to the tragedy.

“Forever in our hearts” is reminiscent of “thoughts and prayers” that follow natural disasters and acts of hate or terrorism. Although this is an understandable coping mechanism and a method of healing, it does not mean that we should not take action for change.

We must understand why the covering on the Tower is necessary. But, to keep the victims of Grenfell in our hearts should not mean that we stop questioning “Why? How? Who is accountable?” To do so is a failure on our part to those who did not survive, and for those who did but are still victims of distress.

So, when we now see Grenfell covered in a white sheet, remember the charred building underneath it, and do not let the place in your heart take away from the questions in your head. Keep remembering, keep fighting to understand, and don’t forget those who now rest in power.

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