MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A year to the day after a Minneapolis apartment complex burst into flames, most of the people who lived there are still homeless.
Flames ripped through an apartment building in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood last New Year’s Day, killing three men and leaving more than a dozen hurt.
Investigators have never pinpointed what sparked the explosion, and they say they may never be able to identify the cause.
Abdi Qobey was lying in his bed watching TV on the minus-8-degree morning when the walls caved in.
“Fire everywhere, no walls. One guy was shouting, he say, ‘Help me, help me,'” Qobey said.
Other residents were blown from their beds on to the cold hard ground. As Qobey looked out the window, an officer yelled.
“He said, ‘There’s no firefighters yet and your time is limited, you have to jump,'” he said.
He did, as did many others. He broke his back and both legs in the fall.
“You forget the pain of your back, pain of your leg because your hand, your face, everything was going into frozen,” Qobey said.
He stayed in the hospital for weeks and weeks, while some neighbors stayed for six months.
Abdirizak Bihi of the Somali Advocacy Center spent that day translating.
“It’s [those] seconds, minutes that has changed their lives,” Bihi said.
One year later, Bihi is trying to get help for a dozen men who used to have jobs and are now homeless, thanks to broken bones, burns and scars you cannot see.
“They need psychological help, they need us to help them to get back on their feet, to be with them,” he said.
After the flames went out, donations ran dry. Qobey is one of the few still working, doing temporary maintenance work.
“You gonna try by any means necessary to survive, so that’s what we did,” Qobey said.
He says he’s been through wartime in his native Somalia, which he says was worse.
Former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak was just hours from leaving office on the day of the explosion and fire.
“I dealt with a lot of tough tragedies. That was an especially difficult one I think because the people who were suffering were so vulnerable to start with,” Rybak said.
Qobey says he remains grateful for those who’ve helped.
“We appreciate the God who gave us again [the] second chance to stay alive,” Qobey said.
New Year’s Day 2015 was around 22 degrees warmer than 2014.
You can donate to help the victims or help rebuild the mosque damaged in the explosion by clicking here.