Grenfell’s ‘exam girl’ relives the hell of fire
Inquest chief says her bravery in taking chemistry GCSE just hours after fleeing flames was ‘simply astonishing’
A Catholic student who got an A in her chemistry exam the morning after she escaped from the Grenfell Tower fire disaster played music as she revised to block out the noise outside her temporary refuge from residents still trapped in the building.
Ines Alves, then 16, had grabbed her revision notes and fled her 13th floor flat shortly after 1am on 14th June last year after being woken up by her father.
Initially, she recalled, she had “no doubt that the fire would be brought under control” and the only thing she felt stressed about was her upcoming exams.
Once outside, however, the scale of the fire began to sink in, and Ines began hyperventilating and shaking.
She was taken to a family friend’s house nearby and advised to get somer est, but could not sleep and instead tried to read through her notes.
In a written statement to the public inquiry into the blaze she said: ‘I laid down and it all felt like a horrible dream. I kept hoping that if I went to sleep and woke up, it wouldn’t be true. I closed my eyes but I could still hear things going outside.
‘I could hear people on the street outside. I wasn’t sure if they were residents or passers-by, but they were commenting on the fire and how bad it was.
‘I could hear panic in their voices. I could also hear the crackling of the fire. I started hyperventilating and shaking again.
‘I tried to control how I was feeling but just couldn’t.
‘People on the streets began to scream and I knew then that I was not going to be able to sleep.
‘After about 10 or 15 minutes, I decided that I wasn’t going to be able to sleep so I may as well try to revise. I went back into the sitting room.
‘Filip lent me some headphones and I plugged them into my phone to listen to music. I hoped that would drown out the horrible noises outside. I sat on their sofa and tried to revise.’
Shortly after, she watched the fire reach her parents’ bedroom and was filled with ‘a weird sense of relief’.
She said: ‘I was now free of the anxiety that had plagued me all night, wondering if we would have a home to go back to. I no longer felt this deep apprehension. There was no hope left.’
Despite her ordeal, Ines said she ‘never considered’ not doing the exam, and went in to school on autopilot in a bid to ‘maintain some normality’.
In a state of shock and struggling to concentrate, she sat the exam, bursting into tears as teachers collected her paper.
Ines was disappointed with her A, and later found out she was a few marks off an A*.
Inquiry chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick said it was “simply astonishing” that she had managed to sit the exam.
Since the fire, Ines said she has struggled with her studies, and has decided to retake a year at Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School.
She said: “If I don’t understand something, I will skip it, whereas before I would always search for the answer.
“I don’t seem to care as much as before and have lost the passion I used to have.”
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