Grief hung heavy in the air on the first day of the Grenfell Tower inquiry.
Six people – some in their later years, some unborn, but all bound by the same terrible fate – were honoured over the course of several hours by their loved ones.
Tears were fought back as the bereaved took to the stage one by one to give their presentations. The searing honesty they displayed elicited a similar response from their audience.
It is going to be a very emotional six days. I cannot promise I will not find it emotional and I’m not going to be ashamed if I do find it upsettingCounsel to the inquiry Bernard Richmond QC
It was clear many were still trying to make sense of the night that cast a long shadow across their lives nearly a year ago.
The tone for the first day of official hearings was set early on by counsel to the inquiry Bernard Richmond QC, who said: “It is going to be a very emotional six days. I cannot promise I will not find it emotional and I’m not going to be ashamed if I do find it upsetting.”
Then began the first of the personal portraits, the pain of which swallowed the vast hearing room at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel, South Kensington.
But the lack of words at times delivered more of a hammer blow to those watching than the tributes themselves.
Marcio Gomes, dignified father to stillborn baby Logan Gomes, delivered a presentation bursting with love, but punctuated by gut-wrenching sadness.
He was overcome as he saw the ultrasound image of his unborn son on the hearing’s screen, unable to continue for a few moments as he stifled his anguish.
Tears were flowing across the hall by the time he finished commemorating his “beautiful angel”, who was seen today for the first time – cradled, lifeless, by his mother in a picture shown on the screen.
Throughout the day, the words of each family took different forms and struck different tones, but the darkness always lingered behind the memories.
Even the deliberately muted delivery of Sam Daniels, the son of 69-year-old victim Joseph Daniels, conveyed a raw distress in a few seconds.
The hearing was told he was specifically requesting a halt to the applause which had followed every presentation until that point.
Mr Daniels said simply of his father: “He stood no chance of getting out and this should never have happened.”
I am already finding these descriptions of the deceased extremely moving and I am very conscious of the effort that some of these presenting have had to make in order to tell us about their loved onesSir Martin Moore-Bick
As the day drew to a close with a homage to mother and daughter Mary Mendy and Khadija Saye, one of the more high-profile guests, MP David Lammy, was seen wiping away tears.
The Labour politician was a friend of 24-year-old Ms Saye and sat on stage alongside her aunt as statements were read out about the pair.
Those in attendance were left looking drained as chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick wrapped up proceedings.
He had earlier told the room: “I am already finding these descriptions of the deceased extremely moving and I am very conscious of the effort that some of these presenting have had to make in order to tell us about their loved ones.
“It can’t be an easy exercise, and I am very grateful to all of you that have come along to do this.”
Tributes enter their second day on Tuesday when the inquiry will hear from five more families, alongside further memories from relatives of Ms Saye and Ms Mendy.