The official inquiry into last year’s catastrophic fire at Grenfell Tower in London that killed 72 people opened Monday with heart-rending tributes by bereaved families who lost their loved ones.
After opening statements and 72 seconds of silence to remember each victim, Marcio Gomes was the first to give a statement, telling of the devastation of losing his unborn son hours after he and his family escaped the inferno.
His pregnant wife, Andreia Gomes, was put in an induced coma after the couple and their two young daughters ran from the 21st floor from the building at four in the morning. She gave birth hours later to a stillborn baby, whom they named Logan.
“That evening, I was fortunate enough to hold my son,” Gomes said breaking down in tears, as he showed pictures of a baby scan, Logan’s nursery being prepared and his wife happily pregnant.
“(I was) hoping it was all a bad dream, wishing, praying, for any kind of miracle, that he would just open his eyes.”
“He might not be here physically, but he’ll always be here in our hearts,” Gomes said.
“You don’t know what you are made of until you are broken.”
The June 14 fire trapped many residents inside in the early morning as they slept, in what became the deadliest fire in the United Kingdom since 1988.
‘My dad loved life’
Nearly a year on, families have the opportunity to commemorate those they lost and reflect on their lives.
Lawyers read statements from family members of victim Mohamed Amied Neda, known as Saber, describing a hard-working father and husband who worked as a chauffeur and never took a sick day.
Neda and his family fled persecution in Afghanistan and started a new life in the UK.
“In the 18 years that we lived in Grenfell, there was never a bad word said about him. My dad came to the UK on 1998 with my mum and me. I was only about 5 years old, but I can remember from the moment that he set foot in the UK, that he found himself a job and he worked hard until the day he passed away,” his son, Farhad Neda said, according to the statement.
“We are a very close and happy family. I grew up in a safe home full of love and full of laughter. My dad loved life, and loved meeting people.”
Family members of four other victims – Denis Murphy, Joseph Daniels, Mary Mendy and her daughter, Khadija Saye – also shared their memories of their relatives Monday.
Saye was 24 when she was killed in the fire. She was a budding photographer who had self-portraits recently exhibited at the renowned Venice Biennale.
Saye’s family showed excerpts of a documentary on her burgeoning career, portraying an energetic and passionate artist who was excited to be developing her career.
The inquiry opened at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel in Kensington, London and is chaired by Sir Martin Moore-Bick, a retired judge.
“They will be remembered through the words and pictures chosen by the people who knew them best and loved them most,” Moore-Bick said.
This stage of the inquiry is expected to run for nine days, but the full inquiry’s closing statement is scheduled for October 29 and could go longer than expected.
Moore-Bick said that the tributes would not only serve a commemorative purpose. “They are an integral part of the evidence before the inquiry, they will remind us of its fundamental purpose and the reason why it’s so important that the truth be laid bare.”
The inquiry is tasked with establishing what happened and making recommendations to prevent a similar fire from causing such devastation again. Much of the focus of investigations since the fire has been on the material used in the building’s cladding,
Grenfell tower sits in the affluent London borough of Kensington and Chelsea, but many of its residents were low-income earners living in social housing apartments.