Funeral services were held on Sunday to commemorate 17 lives lost a week ago when New York City’s deadliest fire in decades tore through an apartment building in the Bronx. All the victims were of West African origin, from Gambia, Mali and Guinea. Half of them were children; the youngest was 2.
Fifteen caskets arrived at the Islamic Cultural Center on Sunday morning, at around the same time of day that the tragedy had occurred a week earlier, when a space heater caught fire. (A separate service had been held on Wednesday for the other two victims, from Mali.)
Many residents had complained about insufficient heating, and many of the families in the building owned space heaters.
The leader of the Islamic center, Sheikh Musa Drammeh, used the occasion to denounce the living conditions that allowed the fire to occur, directing his words to elected officials who had arrived to pay their respects, including Mayor Eric Adams, Senator Chuck Schumer and Attorney General Letitia James.
“If these people lived in Midtown Manhattan, this wouldn’t have happened. They would not have needed space heaters. The conditions in which they lived in the Bronx caused their death,” he said, turning toward the officials and adding: “Mr. Mayor, you heard? Mr. Schumer, you heard?”
What follows are scenes from the community mourning over the weekend:
A crowd gathered outside the Islamic Cultural Center on Sunday.
Family members and neighbors gathered in tents as the caskets arrived at the center on Sunday, one for women and another for male mourners.
Mourners walked into the center for the prayer service on Sunday.
Photos of the victims were placed on a memorial in front of the Twin Parks North West building on Friday.
The crowd watched as coffins were brought into the center on Sunday.
Hearses lined the streets as the coffins arrived.
Anita Konate cried for the fire victims as she stood outside the center on Sunday.
Mourners held onto a coffin as it is rolled through the crowd.
The men’s prayer room was packed Sunday morning.
Members of the New York City Fire Department attended the prayer service.
The room was packed so tightly that the imam had to repeatedly shout to clear a path so that the coffins could be brought in and be arranged.
“What is happening here in the Bronx, it is what is happening across our city, where the communities with Black, brown and immigrant people are,” New York City Mayor Eric Adams said on Sunday. “It’s time to end those inequalities so we don’t have our babies and our families torn apart by tragedy. The American dream for too many burned in that fire.”
The community at Masjid-Ur-Rahmah grieved while Imam Musa Kabba delivered a sermon during a separate prayer service on Friday.
The victims, who included eight children, lost their lives from smoke inhalation, according to the city’s medical examiner.
Those who could not get inside the center for the Sunday service watched through the windows.