The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s attendance at a Grenfell Tower memorial service was “huge” for the community and showed they “shared that feeling” of mourning on the fifth-year anniversary, according to a local resident.
Kate and William were among those who observed a 72-second silence at the base of the tower in north Kensington, London, in memory of the 72 men, women and children who died in the fatal blaze five years ago.
The royal couple laid a wreath in tribute to those who died and listened to speeches which included calls for the arrests of those responsible for the tragedy and criticism of the Government’s Rwanda immigration policy.
Mother-of-five Muna Hussain said her children went to the same school as five of those who died in the fire and her household was evacuated in the days following.
When asked about William and Kate’s appearance at the service, Ms Hussain, 50, told the PA news agency: “I was happy.
“I was glad to see at least they know how we are feeling as a community, and they shared that feeling.
“It makes me very happy. It’s massive, it’s huge for us. It makes you feel better.”
Ms Hussain said she witnessed the fire with her son, who was then 13 years old, and had visited the tower and memorial wall every day since they were allowed back home.
Many mourners were wearing green scarves and clothing to match the green hearts which adorn the wall which have become a symbol of the tragedy.
The duke and duchess chatted with attendees before taking their seats in the front row for the multi-faith service.
Their appearance followed a private meeting earlier on Tuesday between the royal couple and those directly affected by the disaster.
During the service, 18 green balloons were released as the names of the children who died in the fire were uttered.
There were also choir performances, prayers, readings and the unveiling of a white heart sculpture made of hands.
The service was live-streamed on screens positioned in the surrounding area so the wider community and public could watch.
Grime artist Stormzy was seen close to the tower while the service took place.
Speaking on stage, Cambridge Muslim College dean Shaykh Abdul Hakim Murad called for those accountable for the fire to be arrested.
He also criticised the Government’s Rwanda immigration scheme and called for a “museum of inequality” to be established in the capital.
He said families “still have not heard the click of handcuffs” and criticised the “xenophobic discourse now sadly gaining ground” amid plans for deportation flights to Rwanda.
He added: “Grenfell shows how the powerless and underestimated can suffer, but also what they can achieve.”
The academic called for a “just closure to this story” before being applauded by hundreds listening.
Father Gerard Skinner, parish priest of St Francis of Assisi church in Notting Hill, said Grenfell Tower has become a “symbol of suffering” for those who died, their loved ones, survivors and the community, and a “symbol of shame” for liars and deceivers.
He continued: “But Grenfell is a symbol of love. It’s why the heart is there at the top (of the tower), that’s why it’s here today.
“A reminder of the love of God, God’s love for each one of us, and your love for each other.
“It is a symbol of change too – of laws and of hearts.”
Eight-year-old Ayeesha, who survived the fire, recited a poem she wrote called Never Forget.
She said: “We will stay strong, we will rise up as a community, we will fight for justice together, we will always remember our friends and our neighbours, we will always remember our home.
“We can’t change the past but we can change the future. Never forget.”
The little girl smiled as she ended the poem and the duke and duchess could be seen smiling as they joined in applause.
Towards the end of the service, floral tributes were laid at the base of the tower by the royal couple and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan.
Kate laid down a wreath with white flowers as William looked on just behind her, before both bowed their heads and stood for a moment of quiet reflection.
The royal couple left in a black car, with Kate waving to onlookers from the back seat as they were driven down Grenfell Road.