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'That night taught me not to take life for granted': Grenfell Tower fire survivors on dealing with tragedy

On the anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire, ITV News has spoken to survivors about how what happened on June 14, 2017, has affected them in the past year.

  • 'We still have nightmares'

Sid-Ali Atmani lived on the 15th floor of the tower with his wife, 10-year-old daughter and stepson.

Mr Atmani, who is living in temporary accommodation in Kensington, said he and his daughter Hayam still have nightmares and cry when they see the shell where their home once stood.

"She's been crying every day and she's been very sad," he said. "If she hear songs regarding Grenfell she'll just cry - she never forget that."

One of his daughter's friends died in the fire and Mr Atmani worries she will be affected by the events of that night for the rest of her life.

"I worry that it will, I'm worried it will affect people in different ways," he told ITV News.

"If an accident happens to you, you will talk about it your whole life, even to your children because you would never forget that accident. How can you forget and move on from a disaster like that?"

He added: "You survive, you move on, but moving on to where? You have been broken. You have been damaged from the inside."

An Algerian immigrant, Mr Atmani was scared of living in the high-rise tower when he first moved in, but soon found it a "beautiful" place to be.

He struggles to understand how he made it out alive, while those living in flats next door to him did not.

"How is it people on the 22nd floor made it and then my neighbour didn’t? I couldn’t understand. I wanted someone to explain to me."

Memorials to those who died are a daily reminder to him of the need for justice.

"All their dreams have been taken away," Mr Atmani said. "They have the right to be alive and their life has been taken. People need to never forget why."

He believes some of the deaths could have been prevented if the “stay-put” advice had not been issued.

"I'm not blaming the firefighters, I'm blaming the policy itself," he said. "What we need to do is simple. If there's a fire, get out, don’t say stay.

"It shouldn’t be talked about as if it was an accident, we shouldn’t move on or get over it.

"We need to think about future, protect and secure buildings and houses. A lot of things need to be changed."

  • 'It’s time to look forward to the future'

One of the last survivors to escape from the tower fire told ITV News she hopes everyone caught up in the tragedy can “look forward to the future” – but that what happened will always be “part of me”.

Alemishet Demissie lived alone on the 12th floor of the tower but had a friend staying with her when the fire took hold.

She was alerted to the blaze at around 1.30am but did not get out of the building until after 3.30am.

Firefighters managed to reach Ms Demissie’s flat and help her and her guest to safety, even after she had been told on the phone: “If you don’t leave now you are going to die.”

She said: “It’s a miracle that we survived that fire, I don’t know how it happened.”

One year on, Ms Demissie says she no longer takes anything in life for granted.

“When you live you only think you’ve got all the time to live, all the time to do what you want to do, all the time to fulfil your ambitions,” she says. “And then that night taught me that it's not something you take for granted.”

She says she has been given another chance in life and she is now focusing on how to use it.

“I want to be different because I came face-to-face with death so I don’t want to be the same person I was,” she explained.

Ms Demissie says she will always treasure the fond memories and friendships made at Grenfell. She says she wouldn’t swap her experience before the fire “for anything”.

“Everyone has a special, a very fond memory of Grenfell Tower, so that will never, never go,” she said.

Now she says it is time to forgive and move forward in life.

“It’s time to accept what’s happened and look forward to the future,” Ms Demissie said. That’s what I wish for everybody.

“Life is not about the past, life is about the future.

“I don't want to think about it every day, but I wouldn’t like to forget it altogether, it's part of me.”

Credit: PA