I lost my family at Grenfell – the burning effigy video only adds to the horror


LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - 2018/06/14: A woman seen standing in front of the flowers memorial at the foot of the Grenfell Tower. On the first anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire, which killed 72 people, the area around the tower has been filled with flowers, candles and messages to remember those who lost their lives. (Photo by Brais G. Rouco/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The horror of what happened at Grenfell Tower will stay with me always (Picture: Brais G. Rouco/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

I was appalled, outraged and disgusted when I saw the video of the burning Grenfell Tower effigy on social media yesterday.

It had a huge impact on me and I knew that it would also greatly affect all bereaved families, survivors and the local community.

I took some solace in the public outcry about the video and remember how the British public gave us support following the fire at Grenfell Tower. It is however, distressing, that individuals would find any humour in what happened. It is only right that the public has not tolerated something so reprehensible.

This is cold and dysfunctional human behaviour.

The horror of what happened at Grenfell Tower will stay with me always. In the early hours of 14 June 2017 as I slept, I missed a voicemail message left by my sister.

I was awoken by my brother’s call later on who told me what was happening at Grenfell. I often find that I cannot shake away the image of what I saw when I turned on the television. I made my way from East London to West London in a daze.

That evening I lost six beautiful members of my family: my mum, Sirria; my sister, Nadia; my brother in law, Bassem and my three adorable nieces Mierna, Fatima and Zainab.

For three whole months, we held on to some possibility that they had survived the fire and were somewhere safe but unable to contact us. It’s what you do to cope with the pain. In September of last year, all of them were identified and confirmed dead as result of the fire.

Today I feel much the same as I did last year and on days like yesterday, I feel worse.

I wake up every morning full of grief. At times it is unbearable and this was further compounded by the slow response of the authorities to put in place basic services, such as bereavement counselling.

This has had a severe impact on my whole family; it is extremely difficult to explain to my children. We pray that nobody ever has to go through what we have. The pain is indescribable. Yet, the acts of those in the video have made us stronger in our fight for justice.

Today, as I write, I am attending the Grenfell Inquiry, as I often do. There are some immediate changes I would like to see.

My opinion is that the inquiry is losing its focus and not listening to or understanding the bereaved families, survivors or residents. It appears that they just want to be ‘seen’ to be doing ‘something’.

This is our inquiry and yet there are decisions made about who can give oral evidence and what evidence is read into the record. The criteria for how this is decided should be made open and transparent to us, not dictated to us; if they are truly listening to us and meeting ‘our’ needs.

If the reasons for how oral and written evidence is selected cannot be made public, then the process is severely flawed, and trust and confidence in the Grenfell Inquiry will be totally lost. I would have to consider giving up my Core Participation Status and I know others who will do the same.

We cannot waste our time on those who really do not understand the value of precious lives at this time when we are fighting for safety and regulation changes to prevent other lives being lost.

The people that made the repugnant video should try instead to understand that through our pain we want a safer future for everyone. Inshallah.

Nabil Choucair is a founding member of Humanity 4 Grenfell; which facilitates and supports the well-being of all affected by the Grenfell Tower fire, including bereaved families, survivors and the whole Grenfell community.       

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