FORDHAM HEIGHTS, Bronx (PIX11) — Monday marked one year since 17 people, including eight children, lost their lives in a devastating high-rise fire in the Bronx. The milestone was marked by two separate events: a private memorial service and a very public tribute to the victims and to the man who led the community of which they were a part. Many people participating in one or both ceremonies described the day as bittersweet. 

The memorial service was at the local mosque, Masjid Ar-Rahmana. Almost all of the people who perished in the fire were members of the mosque, which is made up of families and individuals who’ve moved to the U.S. from the west African nation of The Gambia. Mayor Eric Adams attended the service and spoke to the assembly of family members and friends. He said that commemorations would continue yearly. Following the service, Adams went the two blocks to the building, Twin Parks North West, where the fire had broken out on Jan. 9, 2021. 

Then, around 1:30 p.m., a few hundred people gathered in the street in front of Twin Parks, at 181st and Folin Streets, for a dedication ceremony.

It was organized by City Council member Oswald Feliz to honor the 17 fire victims, who perished when a space heater ignited the fire in the building in which many of the fire doors, which were supposed to close on their own, did not.

Many residents of the building are still hurting, as a woman who chose not to give her name, pointed out. 

“To know that the neighbor who physically lived next to you, [and you heard] her pass away, with her kids, their screams for help just stop one by one, is very traumatic,” the Twin Parks resident said, referring to herself. She lived on the same floor as a family of four who all perished. “Many of us are dealing with depression, PTSD,” she said.  

She is getting therapy, she said, and is moving out of the building this week. She said that she had only slept one full night in the last year, and that was only when she’d spent the night away from the building. 

They ranged in age from two to 50, and were all part of a Gambian community in the Bronx. 

They’d all come to New York because of the efforts of one Gambian man, Abdoulie Touray, who’d first arrived here in 1978. He passed away in 2019, two years before the 17 people whose families he’d helped attract to New York. 

On Monday, the intersection of Folin Street and Tiebout Avenue was renamed Abdoulie Touray Way, in his honor. 

The newly made street sign read, “17 Abdoulie Touray Way,” honoring Touray, as well as the 17 victims.

They were:  

-The entire Dukuray Family  — Haji, 49, Haja Dukerey, his wife, 37, and their three children, Mustapha, 12, Mariam, 11, and Fatoumata, 5. 

-Their neighbor and friend, Fatoumata Drammeh, 50, and her three children, Fatoumala, 21, Nyumaaisha, 19; and Muhammed, 12. 

-Hagi Jawara, 47, and his wife, Isatou Jabbie, 31.

-Fatoumata Tunkara, 43, and her son Omar Jambang, 6.

-Sera Janneh, 27

-Seydou Toure, 12

-Haouwa Mahamadou, 5 

-Ousmane Konteh, 2  

Konteh was the youngest victim of the fire.

Members of the victims’ families said that the street renaming was a fitting tribute. Haji Dukuray, lost five family members in the tragic fire, and, like them, had come to New York from The Gambia because Touray had encouraged him.

“Honoring him is like honoring the 17 people who were lost,” Dukuray said in an interview. “Us honoring them,” he continued, “it’s very, very important to me in trying to keep their memories alive.”

Touray’s family was on the scene of the street dedication. One of his daughters, Rokia Touray, said that the event underscored how strong the community is, and how effectively her father fostered that. 

“That sense of community was not lost after my father passed,” she said. “So that sense of community, we still have that.”