MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Thursday marks one year since a landslide in St. Paul’s Lilydale Park took the lives of two young students.
Ten-year-old Mohamed Fofana and 9-year-old Haysem Sani were killed last May when a landslide buried them during a class field trip to Lilydale Park in St. Paul.
The two boys went to Peter Hobart Elementary School in St. Louis Park, where there was a memorial Thursday in their honor. All 500 students and staff, wearing the school colors, formed a huge circle and held a moment of silence at 2:20 p.m., which was the time of the landslide.
Four white balloons were then released by family.
“It is a sad day for us,” said Imam Mohamed Dukuly, the boy’s uncle. “We have decided as a family to push away our hurt, agony and stress through the building of a school.”
The school in Guinea will be named after Mohamed Fofana, using some of the settlement money the family was given from the city and school district. Roughly $400,000 was given to each family in that settlement.
Haysem Sani was 6 years old when his family took a trip to Ethiopia. He saw poverty and vowed to help. The settlement money will build his orphanage.
“When he got back he said, ‘you know, when I graduate from Harvard, I want to help those people,'” said Paul Godlewski, Sani family attorney.
Tears of sadness, hugs of support for two boys whose sudden loss, will bring hope to so many.
They hope to break ground on Fofana’s school in Guinea next month. Plans are still being drawn up for the orphanage in Ethiopia.
People are also urged to donate books and clothes to go toward those causes.
The city funded two investigations last year, which found that city employees knew of past landslides in the park but could not have predicted the tragedy.
The families met privately with the 5th graders at Thursday’s event, just prior to the balloon release. They wanted to thank them personally for all their support during this horrible tragedy.