[Image 1: A smiling man looking away from the camera. Image 2: A woman holding a young child. Image 3: Three smiling girls aged between 3 and 13]
Part 19 of a series of posts honoring the Grenfell Tower victims.
The Choucair family, from the 22nd floor of Grenfell Tower
Three generations of the Choucair family died at Grenfell Tower. These were parents Nadia and Bassem, children Fatima, Zaynab and Mierna,
and grandmother Sirria. (There doesn’t seem to be a picture of her unfortunately.)
One of the most circulated images of the Grenfell fire was a woman leaning out of a window waving a flag. It later transpired that this was Nadia.
The 33-year-old was a nursery school worker whose pupils adored her. She ran an after-school cooking club that was constantly overcrowded, and loved to chat to and play games with the children. Her three daughters attended that same school, Avondale.
The oldest daughter, 13-year-old Mierna, was one of the deputy head girls. (Another was Firdaws Hashim, who also died.) Her teacher described her as “an exceptional role model who always gave 100%”. She loved pop music, excelled in literacy classes, and designed costumes for the school’s World Book Day. She wanted to be either a doctor or a lawyer, her uncle told
the Grenfell inquiry.
Her young cousin Yasmeen paid a tribute to her:
I miss you. I miss the times when we used to play together. I miss the times when you used to protect and defend me like a big sister would. Now that you have left, I haven’t got a big sister any more.
I miss you so, so much. I miss when we used to go on trips and after-school clubs together. You broke my heart when you left. I never got a chance to say goodbye. I miss you very, very much.
I will do anything just to get my big sister back. Love you loads.
Middle child Fatima, 11, loved to play sports. She was more
mischievous than her sister, but was described by her teacher as “extremely polite and a pleasure to know” She had a close-knit group of friends who she spent all her time with, and played for the school football team.
Yasmeen paid a tribute to her, too:
I miss you. I miss the sound of your voice in my ears. I miss when we used to play together and have fun. I remember all the games that we used to play. You’re the best.
I love you so, so much and I miss you a lot. I will never ever forget you. I miss the way you smile, how it brightened up my day – my world.
When you left, my heart has been shattered into millions of pieces. Each piece of my broken heart is being crushed every time. With every piece being blown around by pain that I feel for you. I miss you. I miss you so, so much.
The youngest daughter was Zaynab, who was just three years old. She began attending her mother’s nursery just a month before she died.
“She had endless questions she wanted us to answer, and I wish we could have helped her find the answers to many more,” her nursery teacher said at the inquiry.
Their father, Marks & Spencer store worker Bassem, died alongside them. He loved his wife very much, friends remembered, and was a funny
and generous person. His sister-in-law Sawson Choucair released a statement to the Grenfell inquiry talking about him.
“Bassem was working on terrible pay in restaurant so I got him a job at M&S where I worked. He was quickly promoted and very strict with staff. But he made work fun for me.
During the fire Bassem said everything would be alright, because he was trained in fire safety.”
She went on,
“Everything has been taken away from me: my mum, my sister,
the brother-in-law that I worked with every day, and my nieces. I lost
everything I owned. This should not have happened. We do not want excuses. We demand justice for every single family. We are broken.”
Hisam Choucair, Nadia’s brother and Sirria’s son, also read out a statement. His mother, he said, “was a proud, devout woman, who never
said a bad word about anyone. She was kind and caring and I will miss her for ever.” She was determined that all her children received an education, too. “Because she had not had the opportunity, she wanted it for us.” Sirria worked at the Royal Marsden hospital. But she had arthritis, her son said, and could barely leave the building because of the condition of the Grenfell lifts. Hisam had never trusted the condition of the high-rise:
“No bank would give [Nadia and Bassem] a mortgage as soon as
they found out they were on the 22nd floor. This led me to believe that the banks were aware of something within high rise social housing that we were not aware of.”
Nadia and Mariem Elgwahry, who also died, protested the conditions
of Grenfell Tower before the fire claimed 72 lives. Reportedly, they were
threatened with legal action for raising complaints.