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Liberian Community Gathers To Mourn Four Children Killed In Southwest Philadelphia Fire

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Hadas Kuznits Hadas Kuznits
Hadas Kuznits has been as a news writer/reporter for KYW Newsradio...
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By Hadas Kuznits

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Funeral services were held Saturday for four young children who died in a fire in Southwest Philadelphia last month.

The caskets of four-year-old twins Maria and Marialla Bowah and brothers four-year-old Patrick Sanyeah and 49-day-old Taj Jacque moved many to tears at Divine Mercy Parish. The children were killed in the early morning of July 5th when flames ripped through several row homes along the 6500 block of Gesner Street.

During the service, the children were remembered by family and friends in the city’s Liberian community.

“Maria and Marialla were very loving and compassionate. They were inseparable and loved each other,” an uncle said. “(They) told their mother that they wanted to be doctors to help people and played doctor whenever someone was sick in the family.”

“Patrick had great potential of becoming someone great,” an aunt said. “He was a good big brother. “On (Patrick’s) last birthday, three days after Taj Jacques was born, he told his mother, ‘Mommy, Taj was the best birthday present you gave me.'”

Nine homes were destroyed, another four were damaged, and about 50 people were displaced by the blaze.

The tragedy caused tensions between the Liberian community and the city as friends, family members and neighbors argued the fire department did not respond fast enough. That assertion has been strongly rebuffed by Fire Commissioner Derrick Sawyer and Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Everett Gillison.

“Liberians feel insulated,” said Reverend Doctor Devine, “living under the illusion that help is just a phone call away, not considering the plausibility of human error and human misjudgment.”

(credit: Hadas Kuznits)

(credit: Hadas Kuznits)

The Philadelphia Fire Department announced Friday that they could not determine the cause of the fire.

“When I was sitting in my seat I was crying, because these could have been one of mine,” said pastor Enoch Nyakoon, “so we want to present a cash donation to the victims’ parents, because when tragedy like this strikes, it crosses all denominational barriers.”

Funeral services for the children had been delayed to allow time for the grandparents to attend from Liberia.

“These angels are at peace,” said Menseh Jones, National Executive national executive Vice President for the union of Liberian Associations of America, “and soundly resting in a bosom of the almighty God.”

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