By Hanan Cherbika, one of the Memorial Commission's community representatives for former residents.
I used to live on Grenfell Walk, which is right next to the Tower, and on the night of the fire, I was evacuated with my family. Since the night we haven’t been able to get back into that property. I have lived in the area since I was eleven years old so it’s very familiar to me. I know a lot of the people that live there now and also many of those who have also grown up there.
My knowledge of the community and my contacts is one of the reasons I wanted to join the Memorial Commission. A big part of our role is to engage with those who were affected, and knowing the community and who we’re speaking to is important.
I gave a lot of thought to becoming a community representative. Everyone, and their personal circumstances, are unique. We all had a different experience of what happened that night. As someone who used to live on Grenfell Walk, I am representing former residents but I know that my experience is not the same as that of the former Tower residents who survived the fire. My neighbours and others helped to encourage me to take the community representative role.
It’s so important that the community, have their say about the future memorial, but especially bereaved families and former residents. These people have witnessed and have felt what happened first-hand. They have been through the trauma of that night and they have lived through it. For some of them, that has been after living in the Tower for over 40 years. People have lost so much, others have had to walk away from their homes and from their past lives and never return. It is not right for that to ever be forgotten.
Over the next few months, we need to continue speaking with people, especially with bereaved and former residents, to hear and bring in their ideas and their thoughts. I want us to reach out to them so that together, we can create a beautiful and respectful memorial.
We need those people to contact us, too, so that they can be involved in shaping it. It’s not easy, especially for the bereaved, to imagine something else in the place of where their loved ones died. If people don’t feel they can speak to the Memorial Commission’s co-chairs, they can speak to us, their community representatives, and give us their own personal take on what the memorial should be.
The community representatives are here to listen and to give support. We want to get the best possible results and to do that, we need people’s input into what they would like there. The future memorial is so important; we want to honour those who died with something beautiful and we want to get it right.
For me personally, I would like the memorial to be a peaceful place where we can pay our respects; where people from all around the world can come and pay their respects. Somewhere we can remember our loved ones and our incredible community.
I also want children to have their say in the future memorial, children like mine and their friends. They need to know that they can come forward and have their say, and that they have a voice in this as well. The pandemic has stopped us from doing so much of what we’ve wanted to do, but we are in contact with schools and with others about how we can involve children in the memorial process. Before the fire, we had a park downstairs and that was the centre of the estate, all of the kids would go there, but that was taken away from them. The children need to have their play area, a space where they can come together with others to play, to congregate. One of my hopes for the memorial is that it can recreate that type of space for the children who live here, a special place where they can come together. These are my thoughts, and I look forward to hearing others share theirs.
To contact the Memorial Commission, including the community representatives, go to our contact page. You can also join our mailing list or follow us on Twitter at @GrenfellTowerMC.
Click here to read about the ideas we have heard so far for a future memorial, and to find out how you can contribute your thoughts, too.
Read here for details of the support available to those affected by the Grenfell Tower tragedy.