Somali community rallies after Cedar Avenue apartment fire - New York News

Somali community rallies after Cedar Avenue apartment fire

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MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) -

The devastating explosion and fire that gutted a grocery store and apartment complex on Cedar Avenue on has ignited concern for the survivors in the very tight-knit and growing Somali-American community.

Out of the images of flame and smoke, stories are starting to emerge from those who feel they cheated death.

"I feel so lucky, so fortunate," Jamal Takar told Fox 9 News. "I was there less than an hour before the fire started. As soon as I get home, someone called me and told me the whole building was burned down."

Takar was visiting friends and left just before the explosion shook the very heart of his community, and he says his uncle is among the injured.

"I could have been one of those people taken to the hospital," Takar said. "I feel like I'm fortunate. I'm so grateful to God."

The building and the surrounding area has a lot of historical significance to the Somali immigrants who live nearby.

"It rally takes our hearts," Hashi Shafi said. "It's really touchy, and this was what we called home."

Osman Omar, a professional interpreter, told Fox 9 News the Daral-Hijra mosque, which is attached to the complex, is the first Somali house of prayer that was established in the area.

"When the Somalis came to Cedar Riverside back in years ago -- 1996-97 -- that was the first building as a prayer home," Shafi said.

With crews unable to enter the structure, fire officials have not yet seen whether the mosque was damaged, but they do believe it would have at least been damaged by smoke.

"It could be worse," Imam Abdisalam Adam said. "In this kind of situation, you have to look at the bigger picture. People were not there, and so far we have not seen direct fire affecting the building. So, I'm thankful at this point."

Spiritual leaders with Islamic Civic Society of America & Masjid Dar Al-Hijrah mosque have discussed holding services at the Brian Coyle Community Center in the event that they are unable to use their structure while repairs are made.

Below the apartments, a popular grocery store that caters to the Somali people is already missed by customers who traveled just to shop there.

"I live in Hopkins. We come all the way to shop here," Fartun Ahmed told Fox 9 News. "It means a lot to us."

Both Ahmed and Kamar Mohamad have been coming to the area for years to shop at the store and worship in the mosque.

"It's very sad," Mohamad said. "It's just very sad."

Yet, although the loss of the landmark and the injuries their friends and family members suffered certainly comprise significant trial to grapple with, Ahmed said he knows the community will come together and be stronger in the end.

"Obviously, this will bring people together to make sure things are back and built back to the way it was," Ahmed said.

Anyone with information about what may have caused the explosion and fire is asked to call the Minneapolis Arson Squad at 612-673-3389.

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