It took just minutes for Raven Reyes to lose her mother and five siblings in a fire in Harlem on Wednesday morning. Hours later, she was struggling to make sense of it.
“I wish this didn’t happen. I really just can’t believe this happened,” Reyes, 27, said outside the Frederick Samuel Houses on Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard and West 142nd Street, where her family’s apartment went up in flames.
“If they could hear me … I just want them to know that I love them so much.”
The accidental fire was sparked by an unattended stove in the fifth-floor apartment shortly after 1:30 a.m., the FDNY said. Reyes’ mom, Andrea Pollidore, her adult stepbrother, Mac Abdularaph, and younger siblings — sisters, Nakyra Pollidore, 11, and Brook-Lynn Pollidore, 6, and brothers, Andre Pollidore, 8, and Elijah Pollidore, 3 — were found in two bedrooms and pronounced dead at the scene, a police source said.
Reyes has three other siblings — a brother on the Lower East Side, a sister in Brooklyn and another sister in Atlanta. Her aunts and cousins were with her Wednesday.
“And that’s all I have left,” she said. “This is my whole family over here.”
Dozens of community members joined Reyes for a candlelight vigil outside the building Wednesday evening to pay their respects and commemorate the loss. Returning to the scene of the deadly fire for the second time, Reyes said she was devastated.
“It’s just unbelievable, it’s unbearable, it’s indescribable,” she said. “I don’t even have words.”
But then she found the words. She spoke lovingly of her mother, remembering her as tough and resilient: “She was a gangster, she was the realest.”
She said her mom had escaped a fire in 2013 in a Brooklyn brownstone, in which she suffered first-degree burns.
“She lost her memory. She was in a coma,” Reyes said. “She fought to remember her first kids, to have more kids, to graduate from college, to get her nursing degree, associate’s degree. She did that for us.”
As for her younger siblings, Reyes said her brother Andre had loved to play ball. Her brother Elijah had loved honey buns — a recollection that prompted the gathered mourners to burst into laughter. Her sister Brook-Lynn was a “princess,” she said. “She wanted to go to the ball.”
“My sister Nak, she was so smart, she wanted to become a doctor,” Reyes added.
Earlier Wednesday, she had talked about her relationship with her stepbrother, who was 33.
“I met him when I was like 16 years old, but he’s been in my life ever since, even though my mom and his dad got separated, he’s always been around.”
Representatives of the National Action Network said the organization would work to ensure the family has the resources needed to bury their loved ones.
The community’s support for the family will continue long after the media spotlight wears off, said the network’s NYC field director, Derek Perkinson.
“Harlem is a village,” Perkinson said. “We take care of our own.”
After Reyes and several community leaders spoke, the mourners lit candles and released balloons into the sky.