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Beauty in Tragedy

One year ago today a horrible fire engulfed this building on the West Bank of Minneapolis. What the water turned the building into was nothing short of frozen art.
Photos by Wendy Schreier – The above photo was also noted by Yahoo editor picks here.

Article credited to Debra Keefer Ramage, original can be seen here.


“It started with an explosion, at approximately 8:15 a.m. on New Year’s Day. By the time the firefighters arrived, the building was in flames. There were injured victims lying around outside the building, having jumped from second- and third-floor windows. The crew fought the blaze inside for about 15 minutes, then had to leave due to the fierce heat and decreasing stability of the building, which did partially collapse shortly afterwards. An article in popular news and opinion blog Daily Kos ( has interesting information that has apparently not been picked up in any local media.
“Ahmed Muse, one of the five owners of the Otanga grocery store on the main floor of the building, describes feeling an ‘electrical shock’ strong enough that he was prompted to call the police. Shortly after officers arrived, the explosion happened while Mr. Muse was standing outside with them attempting to explain what had happened.”
Temperatures were around 0 degrees Fahrenheit on New Year’s Day; the water used to fight the blaze froze instantly. Soon, the building and trees around it were draped with huge, smoke-tinged icicles. The sidewalks and street were inches thick in slick ice.
The full scope of loss was not fully known until the weekend, by which time the death toll had risen from zero to three. On Jan. 2, the first body, that of Ahmed Ali, 57, was found. On Friday, Jan. 3, the body of his friend and temporary guest, Mrimri Jama Farah, 60, was found. Both had been identified as missing after the fire. Then, on Saturday, Abdiqani Adan, 29, one of the injured in hospital, died of his injuries. There were still several victims in hospital as of the last report on Jan. 9. Additionally, all of the residents of the apartments are homeless and have lost all their possessions. The Otanga grocery store is gone, and the mosque and Islamic civic center next door, one of the oldest in the Midwest, is severely water-damaged and vacated. The partially fallen building was razed on Jan. 3, but as of Jan. 13, the rubble remains in place, surrounded by an orange plastic fence. Cedar Avenue was closed for two days. Nearby Palmer’s Bar was closed for three days.
All of the residents of the apartments were East African immigrants, mostly Somali. But virtually the whole city has felt a part of the tragedy and offers of help and support have come from everywhere. Outside the city, there have been attempts to spin the story as somehow related to the Al-Shabab attack on the Jazeera hotel in Mogadishu. The xenophobes and haters are always delighted at horrible events like these. One local Islamophobic blog, no name or link will be given, ran an entire series of blogs trying to prove—something; about 10,000 words to say that the cause of the explosion was not what authorities say. Oh, by the way, the cause of the explosion has not been determined yet. But whatever it is, it will be a cover-up, according to Mr. Blogging Crusader.
Neighbors on the West Bank don’t see this as something that has hurt the African community so much as something that has hurt the West Bank, our neighbors, our city. Angie Courchaine, a young non-African resident of the apartments across Cedar Avenue, talks of how the tragedy has renewed the desire of all on the West Bank to get to know their neighbors and be there for them in a crisis. Like the loss of Dania Hall over 13 years ago, the loss of yet another venerable old building is chipping away at the unique character of the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. The destroyed grocery store may have catered mainly to East Africans, but plenty of others shopped there. According to one neighbor, the business, a member of the West Bank Business Association, which is now exploring ways to help, was more than a grocery store—it was a community resource.
A major source of assistance to the displaced residents is the Confederation of Somali Communities in MN at the nearby Brian Coyle Center. This is where people from all over Minneapolis, of every color and religion, dropped by with boots, coats, blankets and money. The CSC-MN has now set up a fund called the Cedar-Riverside Fire Victims Fund. (You can donate online or by check at any branch of Wells Fargo Bank.) Many area churches and synagogues have offered space to displaced Dar al Hijrah Mosque and its many programs. For now, the prayers are being held at the Brian Coyle Center and the other programs are temporarily suspended.
The Cedar Cultural Center, Augsburg College and KFAI Radio are hosting a Cedar Ave Fire Benefit concert Jan. 24 at the Cedar Cultural Center, featuring Spider John Koerner, the Brass Messengers, Martin Devaney, Phil Heywood and others. Check the Cedar Cultural Center website for ticket sales and details.”
Final image is of a life saving warm up at Keefer Food Court. Best buns in the city.

Holy Hill Sunset

Via Wikipedia

“Tradition says that the hill was first discovered in 1673 by Father Marquette with Joliet.[4] However, modern historians generally view this as unlikely.

The United States government owned the land until 1855,[5] and the hill was known as “Government Hill” for surveying work was done there. Forty acres were purchased by Fr. Paulhuber, from Salzburg, Austria.[5]Holy Hill-3

The first resident on the hill was a hermit named Francois Soubrio.[6] Around 1862, an area farmer found him living on the hill. Soubrio had heard about the hill when he was working as an assistant to a retired professor in Quebec, Canada. He had found an old French diary and map dated 1676 showing a cone-shaped mountain in Wisconsin. The diary described how the author placed a stone altar, raised a cross, and dedicated the hill to Jesus‘s mother Mary. The diary account corresponds with Jesuit missionary work in the area between 1673 and 1679.[5]
Holy Hill-5
The name “Holy Hill” was first given to the place by Irish settlers in the area.[6] Father George Strickner dedicated a log chapel as the first Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians on May 24, 1863.[7] A set of wooden crosses were placed for the Stations of the Cross in 1875. In the winter of 1879, Fr. Raess sent a proposal to Archbishop John Henni to construct a new shrine to Mary. Construction began that spring. Pilgrims began flocking to the shrine, and it was decided that a religious order should administer the shrine. A group of Discalced Carmelites came from Bavaria at the invitation of Archbishop Sebastian Messmer, and the Shrine of Mary was put under their care on June 26, 1906.[8] The building now known as the Old Monastery Inn and Retreat Center was completed in 1920. The second shrine was removed in 1925 so that a third shrine could be built. The cornerstone of the third and present shrine was placed by Archbishop Messmer on August 22, 1926.[5] The present church was completed and consecrated in 1931.[5]Holy Hill-1
Another tradition describes a German priest who was recreant to his vows who came to America for penance. He found a reference to the hill in Marquette’s diary and decided to take a pilgrimage. He became ill in Chicago, and was paralyzed. He reportedly found the hill, crawled to the summit on his hands, and was cured of his paralysis.[4]”Holy Hill-6Holy Hill-4