Fifteen Bronx fire victims are commemorated at heartbreaking funeral services

The victims of New York City’s deadliest fire in three decades were laid to rest on January 16 at a heartbreaking ceremony.

Thousands tried on Sunday to show respect for 15 of the 17 people who lost their lives in the Twin Parks North West fire. The Islamic Cultural Center of the Bronx – located at 137 East 166th St. – was, however, flooded with good intentions that created a chaotic situation.

What was planned to be a solemn reflection service fell into disrepair as hundreds of mourners tried to gain access to the mosque, and thousands of others stood along the streets in freezing temperatures to show their respect.

Mourners shouted and pressed their faces against the windows of the center as they struggled to catch a glimpse of a service designed for family members and special dignitaries such as Mayor Eric Adams. The overwhelming situation prompted the EMS to be called and the police to request reinforcements.

Thousands stood along the streets. Photo by Dean Moses
Some members of the local community expressed their anger when they were denied access to the Islamic Cultural Center. Photo by Dean Moses
The mourners looked through the windows of the center, hoping to catch a glimpse of the service.Photo by Dean Moses

Just a week ago, among the victims of the fire were eight children and nine adults who FDNY officials said perished in the fire, which was triggered by a faulty space heater that produced thick, suffocating smoke that spread throughout the 19-story structure. It is also still under investigation whether a defective self-closing door allowed heavy smoke to spread, which contributed to the large number of victims.

The imams at the Islamic Cultural Center noted that this prayer service was held to help families and the community mourn those who perished in the fire, and as a vocal reminder that such a tragedy should never strike tenants again.

Coffins were placed in the prayer area of ​​the mosque. Photo by Dean Moses
Fifteen coffins were brought into the mosque. Photo by Dean Moses
Abandoned families covered their faces while praying at the Islamic Cultural Center in the Bronx. Photo by Dean Moses

Islamic tradition dictates that funerals should take place on the same day, if not very shortly after a person’s death; however, the large number of victims of the Bronx fire and the task of identifying the victims – some were entire family units – took quite a long time.

Debates raged over whether to hold funerals in the victims’ home countries. The prayer emphasized that many of the victims came from different parts of Africa.

Fifteen coffins, large and small, were laid out along the floor of the Islamic Cultural Center in hopes of showing the true horror of the fire. The message was clear: Do not let this happen again.

“We have an obligation to be here for the family and give them the opportunity to get the support they need to get through this period. You have my commitment as mayor as I am here with my colleagues in government, ”said Mayor Adams. “The American dream of too many burned in that fire. It is our duty to make sure that the dream remains alive for all of us.”

Many were affected by grief. Photo by Dean Moses
Mayor Eric Adams promised to support those affected by the fire. Photo by Dean Moses
tears could not be held back. Photo by Dean Moses

The mayor joined with religious leaders, dignitaries and elected officials such as Lieutenant Governor Brain Benjamin, Senator Chuck Schumer and Public Defender Jumaane Williams to make remarks at the funeral.

“We will be here with you to ensure that this tragedy never happens again and we will make sure that all the families, the 15 here and the two who are not here, and all the families affected by the fire, knows that the state will stand up and support [them], ”Said Benjamin in the mosque.

In her speech, the lieutenant governor shared with the families that Governor Kathy Hochul will provide $ 2 million in assistance to families displaced by the fire through funding from the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance’s Emergency Needs for the Homeless Program and the New York State Homes and Community Renewal Housing Fund . These services will include case management, replacement of personal belongings, relocation and rental assistance.

Several family members were so overwhelmed with grief that they fainted during the funeral. Photo by Dean Moses
Some were even unconscious. Photo by Dean Moses
Families saw thousands of individuals gather outside the mosque to show their respect. Photo by Dean Moses

The grief turned out to be too much for many of the mourners. Pandemonium broke out as security and NYPD officers carried those who fainted during the service to waiting ambulances while tears were still dripping down their unconscious faces.

“The entire state of New York mourns with those affected by the tragic fire in the Bronx, an unimaginable tragedy that took the precious lives of sons, daughters, wives, husbands and friends. Governor Kathy Hochul and I both know that no word can remove the pain of losing family members and friends to those who were taken from us prematurely.Through the Victim Compensation Fund, we will give our other New Yorkers the support they need and we are committed to doing so – in lock with the City of New York – in the coming months and years, “Benjamin said in a press release.

Many cried during the entire prayer as they remembered those who perished in the fire just a week ago.Photo by Dean Moses
Fifteen coffins were prayed over. Photo by Dean Moses
The wooden chests were wrapped in cloth. Photo by Dean Moses

Schumer also promised to do everything he can at the federal level to provide assistance to the immigrant community and all those who suffered losses due to the fire. He added that he and Congressman Richie Torres would work with the Gambian embassy to help families come to the United States to help victims through their grief and provide much-needed support.

“When tragedies like this occur, we meet,” Schumer said at the prayer.

To help support the needs of fire victims, the Mayor’s Foundation to promote New York City has established the Bronx Fire Relief Fund, the Bronx Community Foundation and the Gambian Youth Organization are also raising money for tenants.

Lines wound into blocks. Photo by Dean Moses
Participants bowed their heads and prayed. Photo by Dean Moses
Families laid their hands on the coffins and prayed. Photo by Dean Moses
There were so many dead, mourners could look after barley next to them. Photo by Dean Moses

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