Residents of the Cedar-Riverside community attempted to process their shock and grief Wednesday, just hours after an early morning fire killed five and injured four.
The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s office identified four of the five victims as Jerome Stewart, 59; Nadifa Mohamud, 67; Maryan Mohamed Mohamud, 69; and Amatalah Adam, 58.
Maryan Mohamud’s daughter, Fardowsa Yusuf, said her mother lived on the 24th floor and was overcome by smoke trying to escape. Yusuf and her two sisters attempted to help Mohamud, who had trouble walking. When they reached the 17th floor they lost Mohamud in the smoke. Now they’re making plans for her to be buried in Somalia, as she wished. After Yusuf was allowed to enter her mother’s apartment, she dropped to her knees, placed her forehead on her mother’s mattress and wept quietly.
“I will not get my mother back,” she said.
Nadifa Mohamud’s body was released to family members, who will soon coordinate funeral services, said Imam Sharif Mohamed of Dar Al-Hijrah mosque, who is working with the families of the dead and injured.
“This is a trauma for the whole community,” he said. “We all need to be available for those who need us the most.”
Nasra Noor came to check on her family members after she got news of the fire.
“It’s very sad,” Noor said. “May Allah make it easy for all who lost their family members.”
Ali Warsame, former director of the West Bank Neighborhood Coalition, is another relative of Nadifa Mohamud. Family members, still in shock, were gathering to process what happened.
“From the outside, they look OK but I’m sure they’re hurting on the inside,” Warsame said.
Kamal Yusuf lives on the 11th floor. He said he woke to the smell of smoke and heard wailing and noise as he ran downstairs. He ran back up to save his cousin, Xawo Nur, but couldn’t reach him because of the smoke. Nur suffered smoke inhalation but is going to be OK.
The trauma resonated with those who survived the fire. Bashir Nur, 66, said his neighbor banged on his door on the 22nd floor to wake him when the fire happened. Nur, who has a physical disability from polio and uses a wheelchair, tried to escape but the elevators were not working. He couldn’t use the stairs so he went back to his apartment, recited prayers and went back to sleep.
“I never thought I would survive this,” Nur said. “It was smoky and dark. I couldn’t breathe.”
Since 2013, Nur has been asking MPHA to move him to the lowest level of the building, to no avail.
“They put my life in danger,” he said.
Nadifo Yusuf, 70, lives on the 13th floor. She said she tried to escape but couldn’t, so she locked herself in her apartment.
“My eyes are full of smoke and I can’t breathe well and I can’t see well,” she said, her voice breaking and hoarse.
Shanta Russ was trying to get things back to normal in her household, making dinner Wednesday evening while her 4-year-old daughter, Siya Freeman, watched a cartoon on YouTube. Russ, 22, said when the alarm went off she grabbed Siya, wrapped her in a blanket and ran with her down the stairwell. They waited downstairs in the entrance as more people arrived.
“I was panicking and confused about what was going on,” said Russ, who has lived in the building since she was 11 years old. “I’m glad we are safe.”