Freedom Folks

Monday, September 04, 2006

A Tragedy

Source: Chicago Sun Times
Six children ranging in age from 3 to 16 died early today after fire and smoke rushed through their Far North Side apartment as heroic neighbors and firefighters fought to save them.

The residence had no electricity and the family had been burning candles for light, fire officials said.

"A candle in the front hallway appears to have started the fire, but that's only a preliminary finding," Chicago Fire Commissioner Raymond Orozco said this morning.

There were no working smoke detectors in the three-bedroom apartment at 7706 N. Marshfield Ave.
Now here's what caught my eye...
A friend of one of the Ramirez children said their mother originally was from Mexico, but the family had been in the United States for at least 16 years. *snip*

They went up the back stairs to the third-floor back porch landing, and found the mother of the kids. She was cradling a young baby and "freaking out," Hall said.

"We asked her, 'How many kids are in the house?' " he said. "She kept saying, 'Eight! Eight!' She kept saying, 'My kids! My kids!' She kept pointing at the door, because she couldn't speak English."

Hall said he couldn't figure out why the mother was outside the door, which neighbors were trying to break down.

"There were all types of neighbors with fire extinguishers, but you couldn't get past the door," he said. "The door wouldn't open. We were kicking the door. . . . People were trying to get in, but there was nothing you could do." *snip*

"I don't understand Spanish, but you could see she was very scared," Hawk said.
First of all, what was the mother doing outside the door?  That is indeed a mystery.

Sixteen years in this country and doesn't speak english, the kids don't appear to be fluent either.  That's the tragedy here, the real tragedy.  Obviously the story doesn't tell us their immigration status, but statistically we'd be on safe ground to assume illegality here.

How differently might this have played if these folks had made any effort to assimilate into this culture?  If the mother spoke english she would have increased her earning power exponentially, even if she was illegal.  Perhaps they would have understood how important smoke alarms are, especially with children in the apartment.

And candles?  In this day and age, please.  There are many tragedies in this story, but for me the greatest tragedy is this mother's refusal to assimilate.  For her kids it appears to have been a deadly decision.

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