A woman who lost two family members in the Grenfell Tower fire has described the situation half a year on as a nightmare which “seems to be getting darker every day”.
Clarrie Mendy, whose cousin Mary Mendy and her daughter Khadija Saye died in the fire, said there would be no Christmas this year for Mary’s sister Betty, her five children and seven grandchildren, without the pair around the table.
The mother and daughter, who lived together on the 20th floor of the North Kensington high-rise, were “inseparable” and “lived for each other” and their family, she said ahead of the six-month anniversary of their deaths.
She told the Press Association: “It’s just a nightmare, and it seems to be getting darker every day (rather than) brighter every day.
“I don’t know any bereaved family that’s been able to get on with their life – they never will, never.”
The 58-year-old said her birthday, a few weeks after the fire, was not celebrated, adding: “There’s no Christmas this year either, how can one celebrate when this atmosphere prevails?
“I really hope that people remember bereaved families, survivors and the local community who are still suffering from the effects of the fire this Christmas.
“Because when Christmas comes and tables and chairs are empty, no present, no card, no phone call – let’s pray for those families on Christmas Day, and let’s remember them.
“Especially, again, the ones that haven’t had closure. Some people haven’t even had the burials yet.”
She added: “One of the hardest things for me was… you know you get invitations to an engagement party, a Christmas party, a birthday party… when you start getting invitations to burials… I pray to god that never happens to you.”
One of the most painful days of her life was when she was asked to pray at a memorial service for a family of six who died in the fire, she added.
Mendy, from Belsize Park, north London, said she had been offered counselling but was getting by without.
Remembering the mother and daughter, aged 54 and 24, she said they were “gentle people, very softly spoken… kind, loving”.
She said there was an instant affinity between her and her cousin Mary, who “shone” when they met during a visit to extended family in Gambia when she was 19.
Her father helped Mary come to London, and she initially stayed in their family house before settling down and having her daughter.
She said rising artist Saye had been “delighted” about a Venice exhibition, and was reaching a pinnacle on the world stage when she died in the flat she was also using as a studio.
The pair’s lives were “cut short in their midst really, and all we have is a reminder, this crematorium in the sky when we look at Grenfell”, Mendy added.
She has set up a campaign and support group for bereaved family and friends, called Relative Justice for Grenfell, saying necessity forced her to find her voice and give strength to others.
She has since co-founded community group Humanity 4 Grenfell to bring together survivors, the bereaved and anyone inside or outside the local area who has been affected.
She said: “I don’t believe my soul’s going to rest… I’ve got life illnesses but they are secondary compared to this, this quest for justice. Because it’s unjust. There needs to be redress, by the grace of god’s will.
“Every drop of blood and bone you see in me when I’m standing, and those surrounding me, will be looking for this and we’re not going to be shortchanged.”