There was a tragedy in Harlem on Wednesday.
Six people, almost a whole family, died from a fire that raged in the small hours of the morning on the fifth floor of a New York City Housing Authority building on Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard.
The victims included 45-year-old mother Andrea Pollidore, an adult relative and four children, their ages ranging from 3 to 11.
Who knows what avenues those children might have traveled in life, what they would have done and experienced, whom they might have met, what work they might have accomplished.
The city was theirs to grow up in. Now the city mourns for their pasts and futures and unfulfilled promise.
It was by all accounts a horrendous scene. Firefighters met with flames when they entered, fire leaping from windows on two sides of the building. The FDNY responded within minutes, according to Commissioner Daniel Nigro, but it was too late to save the occupants of apartment 5G.
The victims were found in bedrooms in the back of the unit.
The fire’s origin was accidental, caused by unattended cooking, according to fire officials. No smoke alarm was found, yet NYCHA says that a battery-operated smoke-carbon monoxide detector was installed in the apartment in 2017 and last inspected (and found working) in January.
Perhaps further details will emerge in the coming weeks, but the tragedy is a reminder to be careful when cooking and to make sure that smoke detectors are unhindered and operating. Both precautions can save a life.
Mayor Bill de Blasio called the fire “gut-wrenching.”
We add horrifying and nauseating. And, yes, senseless.
In a city and world where so much happens all the time, let’s pause to think about the friends and neighbors and family that the Pollidores leave behind, and remember the sad ends of the fire victims in Harlem.