CAIR-NY: LIFE RESETTLES FOR SURVIVORS OF BRONX FIRE
A 7-year-old girl played with a construction-paper butterfly. Her 5-year-old cousin came and went from the kitchen, trying to distract her mother as she fried potato wedges on the stove. A teenager focused on a homework assignment, sitting in front of the computer in the living room.
Only a plaque on the wall, a Courage Award, served as a reminder of the past in this Bronx apartment that bustled with the present.
It has been about 10 weeks since a fast-moving fire consumed their narrow brick house at 1022 Woodycrest Avenue in the High Bridge neighborhood on March 7. Kadiatou Magassa, the girl with the butterfly, had been carried to safety by firefighters. Niakale Magassa, Kadiatou’s aunt who stood cooking in the kitchen, had fled her room in a panic with her daughter and another girl.
Five Magassa children, four of Mrs. Magassa’s nephews and a niece, were killed. Four other children and their mother — the Soumare family, Mrs. Magassa’s close friends — also died.
Most of the Magassa family has now resettled into a new home on Walton Avenue, a spacious apartment about one mile from the scene of the blaze, one of the deadliest residential fires in New York City history.
These days, in Apartment 4I, there is what there was then: the scent of fried fish for dinner, and the sound of children’s voices mixed with whispered prayers to Allah.
To spend time in the apartment is to see ordinary life that seems extraordinary: the adults slice onions in the kitchen, the children dance on the hardwood floor for no good reason or watch cartoons.
The routine is a stark counterpoint to the catastrophe that raged. If sadness hangs over the apartment, it is invisible.
”I know it’s hard, but we’re going to try to put our lives together,” Mrs. Magassa said. . .
On Wednesday evening, Niakale Magassa prepared dinner in the kitchen: French fries, plantains and fried fish. In the living room, Manthia’s two surviving children — Ngoundo and Madimakan, 15 — did their homework. Above them was the wood plaque, the Courage Award, from the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. ”In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful,” it reads.