Relatives of those who died in the Grenfell fire last June have been allowed inside the tower.
Karim Mussilhy today traced the final steps of his uncle, Hesham Rahman, who lived on the top floor of the tower. He told Sky News his story.
I wanted to go up to his flat to say a prayer where he died. I went up alone because other members of my family weren’t able to make the journey and this is the only way they could have seen his final resting place properly.
We were wearing a helmet, a mask, a forensic suit with wellies and two pairs of gloves and we had everything taped to us so nothing could get in or out. I went up with nine other people – a safety officer, paramedics, psychiatrists, police officers and my family liaison officer.
As soon as we got to the staircase, I just remember thinking “oh my God this is tiny”. And I couldn’t comprehend how people were going up or down these stairs.
If I was to stand next to someone side by side, we’d struggle to walk up together.
So I was really, really scared and I almost didn’t do it but I just kept trying to think “be strong, this is for the family”.
We started with the fourth floor where the fire had started and you couldn’t really tell a fire had started there, as far as I could tell on the staircase.
It just looked really dirty but everything looked fine. And it sort of got worse bit by bit up until the 10th floor, and after that it was just blackness.
The 11th floor and every floor after that it was like someone had painted the walls black.
The higher you got the darker it got. You could see some of the light fixtures had melted. I could even see people’s hands, fingerprints sliding across the wall. Whether they were from people on the way down, I don’t know.
Every step I took, I just kept thinking who was on this floor, who made it out, who am I stepping over, am I stepping over where someone was resting in their final moments?
I knew my uncle was on his sofa in his last moments but I couldn’t get to it as it wasn’t safe – there were cracks on the floor, there were no walls, it was just one big room.
I said a prayer, I had a cry and then I remembered that he wouldn’t want me to cry, he always hated that. I tried to compose myself as much as I could but I could feel their terror, I could feel their helplessness.
A video emerged on social media and you could hear him comforting a young girl, no older than five or six.
This girl was calling out for her Dad, saying that the fire was making her scared. And then you can hear my uncle saying to her “don’t cry, don’t be scared, it’s going to be okay”. My family is holding on to that so, so much. It makes us feel like he was a hero in some way.
He didn’t want me in his flat crying being upset. That I felt 100%. My uncle hated it. Like he said in one of his poems, he doesn’t want tears or flowers. Just smiles of the memories we had together.
I think he would have appreciated why I went up and did what I did but I got a sense that he didn’t want me there for too long. And as soon as I got that feeling, I had to leave.
I remember when I came out they were taking off my stuff and I was shaking. People were talking to me from every angle and I was just numb.
My brain was just trying to process what I’d experienced.
I felt for the first time, I got a feeling of actually understanding what it was like. It was painful. Blackness, death and terror, that’s all I kept feeling. Helplessness. People scared and helpless with no way out.
These people lost their lives in the most horrific way and I still don’t feel people understand fully.
It’s important people know why we are screaming and shouting and saying our voices are not being heard.
It’s important people understand this isn’t just a fire, this is bigger than Grenfell Tower now.
Everyone in this country should be looking at what is going to happen now because no one should ever have to go through this, no one should be unsafe in their homes.
Today was definitely one of the worse I’ve had. That night of the fire, getting the phone call that he’d never made it out and that he wasn’t in any hospital, and today. These were the worst days. I don’t want to go through it again.
My uncle was a kind man. I learnt how to be a kind and decent human being through him. People say time heals and it gets easier, but on this occasion, it’s definitely not getting easier. It’s made things more real.
If I have to go into this mass graveyard of terror and death for you guys to come and get a glimpse of what I experienced to keep us talking about it so that people actually do something, then I will.
Thoughts and prayers are great but we need action now. We need a change because I tell you now if nothing happens there will be another Grenfell Tower.