'I just saw one arm come out of the smoke and grab my wife': Grenfell survivors speak out ahead of public inquiry

As the House of Windsor and the watching world ready themselves for a Royal spectacle - a Prince of the realm marrying an American mixed race woman - there will be much written in the coming days of an image reflecting the diversity and tolerance of modern Britain.

Just a few short miles away, its charred walls slowly being covered in white tarpaulin - is another. And it begs far harder questions of society.

The tragedy of Grenfell Tower came out of a balm of a summer's night. What unfolded was a disaster which devastated a community. Which shamed our politicians. Which asked whether or not - in the one of the richest and most diverse boroughs of the United Kingdom, housing for some of its poorest was “done on the cheap”.

Grenfell was more than a tower - it was home to a community of families, couples and singles - some British, many who'd come from nations across the globe. Who knew each other, who were growing old together, who looked out for one another's kids. Some loved their flats, which gave them a birds' eye view of one of the greatest cities on earth.

As the anniversary of the tragedy draws near, a special edition of ITV's Tonight programme hears from survivors, the bereaved and eyewitnesses, some of whom have never spoken publicly before.

Credit: PA

One, Nick Burton, tells us of the agonising wait for help as he and his beloved wife, already in ill health, struggled in the smoke. She died seven months later, having never recovered.

As I was going down the inner bannister, it just got hotter and hotter and hot – and then there was a point that I couldn’t actually touch the bannister.

And then I thought this is it. My – my legs are – I don’t know what’s happening, I can’t breathe, just – and I’m thinking about where’s my wife, where’s my wife?

And in the end, after all this, she never really came out of hospital. You know, she spent seven months in several different hospitals and then she passed away.

– Nick Burton, 19th floor resident

Another man tells us of the call he took from his friend trapped by the fire - as he watched it take hold from his window across the street. It was the last time they spoke.

A Portuguese couple, Miguel and Fatima Alvez, describe coming home from a restaurant to see the fire as it started. They woke all of their neighbours to get them out. Their ongoing trauma and pain are heartbreaking.

I never cry for the things that I lost because it’s only material things. But for the people they –they die there.

We realised when I saw the people on the window waving for and begging for help, and seeing them, the fire in their back… this was – was hard.

– Fatima Alvez, 13th floor resident

And we hear from the community pastor Derrick Wilson who speaks so vividly about an extraordinary community which rallied to help as much as it could. Of the remains of the tower itself, he simply calls it "a graveyard in the sky".

On Monday, the first hearings of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry get underway.

For the hundreds bereaved, the hundreds still homeless - for the 71 victims - though the building may eventually come down: the lessons of Grenfell Tower must stand.

  • The Tower: A Year On - Tonight will be broadcast on ITV on Thursday 17th May at 7.30pm

If you're affected by any of the issues raised in this story, you can contact the following sources of support:

  • Cruse Bereavement Care is the leading national charity for bereaved people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Cruse offers support, advice and information to children, young people and adults when someone dies, and works to enhance society’s care of bereaved people. Its national helpline can be reached on 0808 808 1677.
  • Care for Grenfell: The Care for Grenfell Team has been set up for anyone who has been affected by the Grenfell Tower fire and offers a single front door to access services and support. The team can be contacted on 020 7745 6414.
  • SANE is a UK-wide charity working to improve the quality of life for people affected by mental illness. SANEline is a national out-of-hours mental health helpline offering specialist emotional support, guidance and information to anyone affected by mental illness, including family, friends and carers. They are open every day of the year from 4.30pm to 10.30pm on 0300 304 7000.