MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Friday marks one year since five people died in a high rise apartment fire in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood.

The fire started the day before Thanksgiving, on Nov. 27, 2019.

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If you drive by, you can still see where the fire happened on the 14th floor, because some windows are boarded up and part of the outside of the building is charred.

“It’s hard to believe it’s already been a year,” said Abdirizak Bihi, reflecting back on that dark day for his neighborhood. “The emotional trauma is still there.”

There was a shed of hope on that day in the way Minnesotans rallied around those impacted by this fire.

“I’ve been reflecting on how the community came together,” said Paula Guinn with The People’s Center, which was one of the lead fundraising organizations.

They teamed up with several neighborhood groups, including the Islamic Civic Society of America, Dar Al Hijrah Mosque, The Cedar Cultural Center, and Augsburg University. Together, they were able to raise over $100,000 for the victims of this fire.

The recovery efforts were strong in the first few months following the fire, but everything quickly changed when COVID-19 hit.

“It has really put the process to almost a stop because we can’t get together and there are a lot of Elders there that are high risk in this pandemic,” said Bihi.

The People’s Center is now changing how they help in this pandemic, by providing PPE to the elders and free COVID testing. They’ve tested 7,000 people through drive-thru since April, and they’re even taking the tests out into the community.

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“We’re going to the 630 building where the fire occurred, coming up in a couple weeks so we can bring testing to the residents there,” said Guinn.

Even in a pandemic keeping us all apart, this community is still finding way to stick together.

“As a community, we have a culture where when tragedies happen, it really brings the best out of us,” said Bihi.

On Friday, Rep. Mohamud Noor (60B) said he’s going to re-introduce legislation that would require automatic sprinkler systems in all existing high rise apartments in the state at the next legislative session. At the time of the fire, there was only a partial sprinkler system in the high rise, mainly just in the common areas.

Anyone, no matter where you live, is welcome to use The People’s Center drive thru COVID testing site.

There is no charge. The schedule is below:

8:30-4:00 Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday

8:30-11:00 Thursday

If you’d like to donate to the People’s Center or drop off PPE, click here.

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Marielle Mohs