MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. – Hearts weighed heavy and heads hung low on Wednesday in Mount Vernon, as the city continues to mourn the loss of four residents who were trapped in their basement apartment during a Tuesday morning fire.
Reymundo Urena was the only survivor of the South Bond Street fire that claimed the lives of his father, Alcedo, mother, Nancy, and siblings, Jesus and Mariselis. On Wednesday, a candlelight vigil was started in front of the house, with mourners gathering to share their sorrow and prayer.
The two children reportedly escaped before returning for their parents. Upon their return to the residence, they were overcome by the smoke and flames. The community was still in shock more than 24 hours after the fire broke out.
“It’s so shocking to think they were here just a few days ago. I saw them coming out of their house over the weekend and we waved,” Hector Rios, a nearby neighbor, said. “What do you do when something like this happens in your neighborhood?”
The Mount Vernon School District provided crisis management and bereavement support at the high school and A.B. Davis Middle School on Tuesday for students who were still saddened by the incident that took the life of one of their classmates, Mariselis, who was a senior.
“On behalf of the entire school district, I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to the family and friends of the Urena family,” Interim Superintendent Judith Johnson said. “This loss of life affects many throughout our school community and our focus is to support our students through the grieving process.”
Reymudno, a senior, and Lendy Urena – who lived upstairs and is enrolled in eighth grade at the middle school – also are members of the school district. Ronald Gonzalez, the principal of the high school, said that the tragedy has brought out the best in some of his students.
“I was moved by our students’ commitment to being at school together to comfort one another,” he said. “We also hope to welcome Reymundo back to school soon. We are preparing to help him heal from this tragedy and to help him continue his studies.”
Tasha Washington, 35, who said she’s lived in Mount Vernon most of her life, added that she couldn’t remember a “more horrific incident” in recent years.
“To be trapped, with a fire going on around you, it’s just awful. And then for those kids to be so brave, and try to be heroes, it really breaks your heart,” she said. “There’s so many bad things that happen every year, but this is the worst one I can think of.”
Mount Vernon firefighters were again busy on Wednesday morning, answer a pair of calls, the first on South 15th Avenue shortly after 9 a.m. and on Forester Avenue about an hour later. There were no injuries, though both homes suffered structural damage.