Community Mourns Six Guyana Victims of Horrific Prospect Avenue Fire

Community Mourns Six Guyana Victims of Horrific Prospect Avenue Fire
by David Greene

Family and friends of the six Ghana immigrants killed in the horrific December 28 fire on Prospect Avenue, said goodbye during a moving service at Our Lady of Mount Carmel’s Church on East 187 Street in the Belmont section.

A young child protects his burning candle from the wind during vigil for those killed in a tragic fire on Prospect Avenue in the boroughs “Little Italy.”–Photo by David Greene

The January 13 service was held for Gabriel Sarkodie, Private 1st Class Emmanuel Mensah, Solomon Donkor, Hannah Donkor, William Donkor and Justice Opoku, who all immigrated from the Ashanti region of Ghana. The service was arranged by Ghana’s Consul General of New York with assistance provided by a group of local clergy leaders of all faiths.

Dr. Barfour Adjei-Baawuah, Ghana’s Ambassador to the United States speaks to friend’s and family of the six Ghana immigrants killed in the December 28 fire.–Photo by David Greene

Earlier in the week the Army National Guard awarded Private Mensah the Soldier’s Medal, the Army’s highest award for heroism, in a non-combat related death. Governor Andrew Cuomo also awarded Mensah the New York State Medal of Valor, the state’s highest military award. Mensah ran back into the building and assisted at least four residents out of the building, before he himself perished.

Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson speaks to a crowd of mourners at Our Lady of Mount Carmel’s Church.–Photo by David Greene

Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson told the crowd of mourners, “We come together to certainly mourn the lives that were lost. We come together to celebrate life and to give God the glory for the creation of life, but certainly through this tragedy that has shook our borough, there is so much that needed saying, but very little that can be done to change the outcome of what has happened.”

Gibson added, “Anything that we can do to make your life easier, to lessen the burden, we are here with you.”

Invited guests included Dr. Barfour Adjei-Baawuah, Ghana’s Ambassador to the United States, Matha Ama Akyaa Pobee, the Permanent Representative of Ghana to the United Nations and Ghana’s Consul-General Samuel Amoako.

The service took place just two days after President Donald Trump allegedly made disparaging comments about African nations, when Ambassador Baawuah made a veiled reference to Trump and an “ever changing American dream.”

After the service Ambassador Baawuah elaborated on his comments, stating, “Well condemning what he said, well sure. I’m not making a comment about him as president, but in that statement that was made, it’s quite painful. Very painful. Because there are some people who came to this country, not voluntarily and they helped build the country.”

Surviving residents of the building joined family members and friends lighting candles outside the Prospect Avenue building where 13 people died on December 28.–Photo by David Greene

Ambassador Baawuah was asked if the damage was repairable, when he replied, “It should be.”

The 100 or so mourners then walked five blocks to the Prospect Avenue building, where mourners lit candles and read passages from the Koran where the chilly temperatures returned to the 18 degree mark, where it had been on the night of the deadly fire.

Meanwhile, several Gofundme pages have been established raising over $26,000, the money will assist families with travel and burial expenses.

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