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Community gives back to victims of Lafayette Avenue fire

Posted: 12:32 AM, Mar 19, 2017
Updated: 2017-03-19 00:32:22-04

It's been one long week for the 90 people who lived in the apartment complex on Lafayette Avenue.

"Somebody was yelling 'fire, fire fire' and when I opened the door, it was the fire department," said Roberto Roman who lost his home to the fire.

"That's my home," said Mustafa Abdo, one of Roberto's neighbors. "When my twins showed up to this life, that was the first apartment we rented."

Memories made after years of living there for both Mustafa Abdo and Roberto Roman, gone in just hours.

"It was devastating," said Abdo. "We were like a family there."

But now, the community is helping residents like them get back on their feet.

"People started contacting us, calling us, asking how can I help, how can I contribute," said Juweria Dahir, one of the event planners. "So immediately we realized we have to capture this all in the most efficient way."

What started with a GoFundMe page quickly grew into much more. Juweira Dahir and Laila Ismail say they've received countless phone calls from others in the community saying they want to help in some way.

"They do not call us the City of Good Neighbors for nothing," said Ismail. "This is an exceptional example of how we can put all the differences aside and we just took action."

The overwhelming response showed through the tables stacked high with clothes and boxes overflowing with pillows and bedding. Just some of the items the community donated to the victims of the fire.

"I'm feeling a little bit emotional right now because everybody is here and everybody is safe and everybody is sharing love and respecting each other."

This wasn't just a one person job. At least 50 volunteers helped put the event together.

"We don't even know these people, they just called us, contacted us," said Ismail.

While many lost everything in the fire, they're thankful they have each other to lean on, but sad they won't be able to call each other "neighbors" any longer.

"Now we're all torn apart, separated, exchanging numbers of course, because we want to see each other again," said Roman.

"It was a sad moment and I feel so bad for everybody who lost anything in that building because it was tragedy and a sad moment," said Abdo.

And now, a new start for all, with friendships that have grown stronger after going through this tough experience together.

"I just thank God we're all alive," said Roman, as he held onto his mother, who he takes care of. "It's just the greatest miracle I've ever seen other than being safe.