In the war-ravaged land they fled, Somalis got used to burying the bodies of tens of thousands of their dead. They usually knew what killed the victims: maybe a bullet, a hatchet, sickness or starvation.

But in a grim irony for many of the 20,000-plus Somali refugees who came to this city in America’s north country seeking peace and safety, at least two of their own — a pregnant mother and her 20-month-old daughter — are lost in the collapse of the Interstate Highway 35W bridge.

They are among about eight Minnesotans officially listed as missing almost a week after the disaster that killed at least five and injured scores.

For Somalis, mostly Muslims living here among one of the nation’s largest Somali populations, the limbo has horrible implications. In their culture, it’s important for someone to be regarded as either dead or alive.

“She’s neither,” said Fadumo Mohamed, great-aunt of the 23-year-old pregnant mother, Sadiya Sahal. “We don’t know where she’s at.”

The family has become a symbol of how many Somalis feel the catastrophe seems to be hitting the Minneapolis Somali community particularly hard.


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