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Grenfell Tower victims remembered with silent walk one year after fire

Families and friends who lost loved ones in the fire hold portraits of victims as they march to the illuminated Grenfell Tower in the early hours of Thursday.

(CNN) – A silent walk is being held in West London on Thursday to mark the first anniversary of the Grenfell Tower inferno, one of the UK’s worst-ever urban disasters and its deadliest fire for 30 years.

Other events marking the tragedy include a 24-hour vigil, a memorial church service and the unveiling of an Islamic-style mosaic made by the Al-Manaar/MCHC local Muslim community center and laid at the bottom of the charred remains of the apartment block.

Grenfell Tower has been wrapped in white and illuminated in green for the 24 hours of the anniversary — a color chosen by the surviving residents of the block. Green hearts adorned the top four floors of the residential tower.

At 1 a.m. local time, marking exactly a year since the fire began to take hold, several other London buildings were also lit up in solidarity, including nearby Kensington Palace, home of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and Downing Street, the Prime Minister’s official residence.

At midday, following a memorial service attended by London Mayor Sadiq Khan, a crowd of survivors, relatives and friends of victims, campaigners and representatives of the emergency services fell silent for 72 seconds in memory of the 72 victims.

They were joined in their silence by people across the country, including Queen Elizabeth and the Duchess of Sussex — formerly Meghan Markle — who were visiting the northwest city of Chester. The Queen wore green, which many are interpreting as a show of support for the Grenfell victims.

In Kensington, candles were lit in memory of the dead, and doves, a symbol of peace, were released as a tribute. Railings on buildings nearby were hung with green fabric and some police officers wore green scarves in solidarity.

The crowds then began a silent march, first to the foot of the tower itself where wreaths were laid, then onward to the nearby Wall of Truth, filled with first-hand accounts and testimony of the tragic night last June. NHS staff were on site, providing support to grieving relatives and survivors and handing out leaflets with advice for coping with the emotions of the day.

Schoolchildren across Britain are being encouraged to wear green on Friday as a mark of respect to those who died.

Many of the victims of the blaze that tore up the 24-story residential tower block were children. The final figure of 72 includes Logan Gomes, who was later stillborn after his mother was stricken by the fumes she inhaled as she fled.

The fire exposed acute divisions in British society, as well as dangerous weaknesses in social housing, urban planning, fire regulations and disaster management.

Retired Court of Appeal judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick is heading a public inquiry into why the disaster happened.

Last month, a series of commemorative hearings were held in which relatives and survivors paid tribute to those who had lost their lives.

Many of the victims died after they were told by fire services to stay put inside their homes. Flames raced up the cladding that had been installed around the block of mainly social housing to improve its appearance.

Last month, the government of Theresa May finally yielded to local authorities’ demands to fund the replacement of combustible cladding, similar to that used on Grenfell Tower, in more than 300 buildings to the tune of £400 million ($535 million).

Police are also investigating the London Fire Brigade’s now controversial “stay put” policy for people trapped in fires in high-rise buildings.

According to Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick, about 200 detectives are working on the police investigation into the fire.

So far there have been no prosecutions of officials of the Conservative-led Kensington and Chelsea Council who chose the cladding panels over more expensive fireproof alternatives.

A year after the disaster, 69 households, including families with children, are still in emergency accommodation while only 82 of the 203 new permanent homes pinpointed by the Council for the Grenfell families have been occupied, according to the Council-run Grenfell Support group.

Noha Maher, brother of victim Hesham Rahman, tweeted on June 4 what many of the survivors are feeling.

“Can’t imagine what my brother and his neighbours went through that night,” he wrote. “They were murdered, that’s what we been saying from day 1. Those responsible need to go to prison. No justice, No peace.”

It is unlikely the survivors of the flames that fateful night will ever fully recover.

The National Health Service estimates the cost of mental-health services alone for the survivors will hit £10 million by this time next year.