The funeral service, held at the Islamic Cultural Center in the Fordham Heights neighborhood, was overflowing with visitors to mourn the deaths of 15 of the 17 victims who died during one of the deadliest fires in the city’s history. Two children of the eight who died in the fire were buried last week.
Those who were not able to fit inside the facilities were able to watch a livestream of the funeral from tents set up outside, the New York Daily News reported, even as bitter temperatures hovered around 22 degrees.
Many of the funeral’s visitors are immigrants or visitors from Gambia, the West African nation to which most of the victims had direct ties, Newsday reported.
Fetou Nyassi, who immigrated to the United States from Gambia more than a decade ago, told Newsday that she attended the funeral “to pay respect to our fellow countrymen.”
“This is sad. Devastating. It’s beyond comprehension,” Nyassi said.
The devastating loss has particularly gripped the Gambian town of Allunhari, according to The Guardian, which noted that personal success reflects on one’s family and community in the nation’s culture.
Haji Dukureh, one of the victims, had spoken with his uncle Ebrima Dukureh the morning of the fire and had “exchanged blessings” for each other’s families, The Guardian reported. His uncle noted that Dukureh had sent money to support his family in Gambia for food and school expenses every month.
“He was obedient, he was always reaching out to me, helping the family,” Ebrima Dukureh said.
Sheikh Musa Drammeh, a Muslim religious leader in the Bronx, spoke during the service Sunday where he called on officials to make 2022 the “year of the Bronx,” WCBS-TV reported. Drammeh is also an immigrant from Gambia.
“We are here because we live in the Bronx. People are dying because they live in the Bronx. We hold these funerals because we live in the Bronx. They will never ever achieve their American dream because they lived in the Bronx,” Drammeh said. “Their aspirations will never ever be fulfilled because they lived in the Bronx. Their families will never ever see them again because they lived in the Bronx.”
“What is happening here in the Bronx, it is what is happening here across our city in communities where Black, brown and immigrant people are,” Adams said. “It’s time to end those inequalities so we don’t have our babies and our families torn apart.”
James said that conditions at the building should have been inspected and corrected, after having previously promised to have her office investigate the fire.
“There were funds that were rewarded to individuals that should have gone to rehabilitation and to correct those conditions,” James said.
The medical examiner’s office has said all the victims died from smoke inhalation while trying to flee from stairwells that had flooded with smoke — even though the fire itself, which was caused by a space heater, was contained to just one apartment on the building’s third floor and an adjoining hallway.