NEW YORK – A community in the Bronx gathered on Sunday to pay their last respects to loved ones who have passed away, a week after a fire engulfed a high-rise apartment building with thick smoke. , suffocating caused 17 deaths, including 8 children.
The mass funeral lasted a week of prayer and mourning in a close-knit community from West Africa, most of which had ties to the small country of Gambia.
Amidst the mourning, there was also frustration and anger as the family, friends and neighbors of the dead tried to learn about the tragedy.
“This is a sad situation. But everything comes from God. Tragedy always happens, we just thank Allah that we can all come together,” said Haji Dukuray, uncle of Haja Dukuray, who died with her three children and husband.
The dead ranged in age from 2 to 50. Entire families were killed, including a family of 5. Others will leave behind orphans.
All week, family members have been anxious to let their loved ones rest in honor of Islamic tradition, which requires burial as soon as possible after death.
But trouble identifying the victims has delayed their arrival at funeral homes. Earlier this week, the burial of the two children was held at a mosque in Harlem.
The dead all collapsed and died after being overtaken by smoke while trying to descend the stairs, which acted as a chimney for the thick smoke.
The funeral was held at the Islamic Cultural Center, 2 miles (3 km) from the 19-story apartment building, the site of New York City’s deadliest fire in three decades.
Hundreds of people filled the mosque and hundreds more huddled in the cold outside to pay their respects. Services are shown on jumbo screens outside and in other rooms of the mosque.
Because of the gravity of the tragedy, funeral planners decided to hold a public funeral to draw attention to the plight of immigrant families across New York City.
“There was strong opposition. There is injustice. There is neglect,” said Sheikh Musa Drammeh, one of the lead responders to the tragedy,
Officials blamed a faulty space heater in a third-floor apartment for the fire, which sent stifling plumes of smoke rapidly rising through the stairs of the 19-story building.
Some residents say space heaters are sometimes needed to add heat to a building and that repairs are not always timely.
“We want the world to know that they died living in the Bronx,” says Drammeh. “If they lived in midtown Manhattan, they wouldn’t have died. Why? Because they won’t need to use space heaters. This is a public outcry. So there must be responsibility from elected officials to change the conditions that cause death every day. ”
New York City Mayor Eric Adams is expected to attend the funeral services, as are other elected officials.
An investigation into the fire is underway.
Much of the focus has been on the catastrophic spread of smoke from the apartment. The fire itself only engulfed an apartment and an adjacent hallway, but investigators said the door to the apartment and stairs from several floors up were left open, creating a plume of smoke that quickly spread. spread throughout the building.
New York City fire codes generally require apartment doors in larger apartment complexes to be spring-loaded and automatically slam shut.
Following the deaths, a coalition of officials, including federal, state and city lawmakers announced a legislative agenda that they hope will strengthen fire and building codes. standards to prevent similar tragedies from happening.
Proposals include requiring space heaters to automatically shut off and requiring federally funded apartment projects to install self-closing doors on apartments and stairs that would be subject to monthly inspections.
As families prepare to bury their loved ones, others remain in hospital, some in serious condition, from smoke inhalation.
To date, fundraisers have raised nearly $400,000. The Mayor’s Fund, Bank of America and other groups said 118 families were displaced by the fire, each family will receive $2,250 in assistance.
https://time.com/6139716/bronx-fire-funeral/ Grief pours out as Bronx fire victims are helped to rest in peace