Funeral preparations are underway in the Bronx community, where 17 people were killed in an apartment fire on Sunday.
Cries of prayer were heard from the Bronx Mosque on Wednesday, as a bereaved community prepares to bury their dead in the coming days and families demand the closure of New York City’s most devastating fire in decades.
Among those awaiting the funeral were a two-year-old boy, a mother who died along with her three children, and a family of five, as well as a husband and wife, whose four children were now orphaned.
“This community, these people have gone through a lot,” said community spokesman Sheikh Musa Drameh. At least a dozen victims worshiped at the Masjid-ur-Rahma Masjid, which is just a short walk from Sunday’s devastation.
“Now they are grieving, but they are very understanding that if it happened, it had to happen,” he said. “And they have no right to question why this happened.”
Community leaders were expected to plan funeral arrangements on Wednesday afternoon and decide whether any of the dead would be brought back. The majority of those killed in the Bronx apartment complex fire were related to The Gambia.
“The most important thing is to really support each other. We’re all members of the same community, so we’re like family,” said Haji Dukuray, whose niece Haja died in a fire with her husband and their three children — Fatoumata, five; Maryam, 11, and Mustafa, 11. 12.
Mustafa had celebrated his birthday the night before the fire. Neighbor Renee Howard, 68, said of Mustafa earlier in the week, “Such beautiful angelic eyes.”
The medical examiner’s office said all victims suffocated from the thick smoke emanating from a third-floor apartment, where officials said a faulty electric space heater sparked the deadly fire.
The fire itself did not spread far, but it produced plumes of thick black smoke that swept down the hallway before filling the staircase. Some people came down dark stairs from the top floor of the 19-storey building. Many survived, but others fell and died on the way.
The dead ranged in age from two-year-old Osman Conte to 50-year-old Fatomata Drammeh, and included eight children, according to a list of names released by New York City police.
Musa Kabbah, Imam of Masjid-ur-Rahma, said that the mosque was trying to organize prayers and funerals.
The medical examiner’s office has yet to release all the dead to their families.
Till then the family waits. Islamic tradition usually calls for burial within 24 hours, but mourning has been further drawn from the slow pace in which loved ones were being left at funeral homes.
“We’re all very worried, to be honest with you,” Dukure said. “It’s the most important thing to know right now and I can’t focus on anything until it actually happens.”