OUR STORIES | Fartun Ahmed: ‘People are just really sad’


Fartun Ahmed is a Somali American who lives in Hopkins, and identifies as a Cedar Riverside community member. She went to witness the aftermath of the Cedar Riverside fire that destroyed a halal market and apartment complex, and left 14 injured. Here are her thoughts about what happened.

Do you live or work in Cedar Riverside?
No but I was a student at the Islamic school way before it became Dar al Hijrah mosque. I saw somebody post something on Facebook at 8:40am, and i first thought the fire happened in the [Riverside Plaza] towers.

Were you shocked?

It was pretty shocking the moment we found out. To see the actual building ruined–it’s devastating. I don’t know anybody who lived in the apartment complexes, but being at the mosque I would constantly see community members going in.

Was the mosque damaged?

I don’t think it’s been physically affected by the fire, but there’s water and smoke damage, according to the imam in speaking with him this morning. It does have a lot of damage but they don’t know the extent because they haven’t been able to assess it because there’s a lot of water. And they’re worried about the pipes freezing and bursting.

How are people trying to make sense of this tragedy, especially with the new year?
I think people are just really sad. They don’t know what to do and how to help. Everybody wants to help and do something but they just don’t know what to do. The halal market is completely gone, it was a small business. The guys who owned it had some social capital in our community and the store has been there for many many years. So, how do you make it easy for them?

Yes they weren’t hurt physically, but at the same time, this [store] has been there for 15 years so it’s pretty devastating. And so, what happens next? Rebuilding is going to be difficult, especially in that area. We don’t know if that’s even going to happen or if the city is going to have different plans.

Are people concerned that this is connected with irresponsible landlords?

The building was really old… When I was [at the scene] an older white lady said the building has always had many issues and they should have looked at this a long time ago. I don’t even know if it had a sprinkler or an alarm system, or anything to alert people of a gas leak… When we renovated the mosque (Dar al Hijrah) in 2006, a lot of renovation had to be done to be safe for the kids and elders, and I still don’t think it’s up to standard yet… There is a neglect of the neighborhood and I think this has to do with it being a Somali immigrant community. It’s just about safety.

Coverage of issues and events that affect Central Corridor neighborhoods and communities is funded in part by a grant from Central Corridor Funders Collaborative.