FORDHAM HEIGHTS, The Bronx — The process of funeralizing and burying the victims of Sunday’s tragic fire has begun, now that family members of the people who lost their lives have been officially notified of their loved ones’ passing.
That funeral and burial process is detailed, careful and expedient, according to customs of Islam, the faith that nearly all of the 17 victims followed.
Some family members said that while it will be a difficult road ahead, their faith community is helping them to navigate it.
“It’s been tough, but we have faith on our side as Muslims,” said Haji Dukuray, whose nephew, also named Haji Dukuray, perished in the fire, along with the younger Dukuray’s wife, Haja Dukureh, and their children, Mustapha Dukureh, 12, Mariam Dukureh, 11, and Fatoumata Dukureh, 6.
“We learn to accept such tragedies, unfortunately, as it is,” Haji Dukuray said.
While he and other family members of the victims said that they have to accept this loss, they also have a process ahead, as Dukuray explained.
“The very first thing is to make sure that we get the bod[ies],” he said, “and to make sure we have them in our hands. And we can think about how we can bury them.”
Of the 17 people killed, 16 were from the same community in Gambia, in West Africa.
They’re from a town of 5,500 people, called Allunhare, and they’re connected to the Ar-Rahaman Mosque, located two and-a-half blocks from the building where tragedy struck.
The mosque is small, and attendance at the funerals for the victims is expected to be significant. So the ceremonies are planned to take place at the new Islamic Center for the Bronx, on 166th Street, between Teller and Clay avenues.
The funerals will take place shortly after the medical examiner releases the bodies to the families.
That could happen as early as Wednesday, after it does, funeral home workers will carry out a detailed preparation, as quickly as possible, according to custom, said the leader of Ar-Rahaman Mosque, Imam Musa Kabba.
“It will be washing [the bodies],” he said, and perfuming them as well, “and to wrap them in a piece of the white cloth,” before placing each body in a simple, wooden coffin, he said.
Imam Kabba said that while Gambia is where the victims’ families are from, the communities of Fordham Heights in the Bronx, and the New York City metro area are their home. He said it should be their home for eternal rest.
“Many families are here now,” the imam said. “They only go back home [to Gambia] to visit. But this is their place to remain, and if you bury them here, you can go to the cemetery, and visit them at any time.”
Meanwhile, hundreds of people who did escape the fire are looking to pick up the pieces. And the community outpouring of support has been tremendous.
Mariama Suaared told PIX11 News she’s from the same West African country as many of the victims.
She said it’s her duty to do whatever it takes to help survivors rebuild their lives in the wake of the tragedy. PIX11 News’ Nicole Johnson has more in the video above.