Hamilton Heights fire victims share Thanksgiving meal

HAMILTON HEIGHTS, Manhattan (WABC) -- They ate chicken and rice and plantains.

It may look like an ordinary Thanksgiving-eve meal, but sometimes a meal is about much more than just food.

"It's hard. It's very hard you know. We have to start all over. They're not letting us in the building. It's a lot. It's a lot going on," said Michelle Rivera, a resident.

She and her 7-year-old daughter Allison are among the roughly 50 families without a home this Thanksgiving after a raging inferno last week in Hamilton Heights ripped through their building.

How do you tell a child who only wants to go back home, that will never happen?

7-year-old Allison Fermaint tells us, "I miss my place. I haven't been going to school."

"I have no answers for her. I don't know what to tell her. I mean she actually witnessed it too seeing all the fire and stuff," Rivera said.

As the Riveras search for answers, they joined nearly all of the families from their building for a meal.

"That building was a nice building. Where people get along. And as you here there's unity. We're goin to stay together," said Angel Perez, a tenant.

His family is now staying at a hotel.

His wife lived in that apartment for more than 50 years. It's the only home she knows. "I did so much crying. Like right now, I'm still dealing with emotions," she said.

So Wednesday night at the non-profit Fortune Society in Hamilton Heights, neighbors prayed together, and grieved together, and held each other up.

The Dominican consulate provided the meal.

It provided hope.

"It's very emotional. This is something that touches home. We live in the area. We know these folks. So for us we see them and their our neighbors. They're family to us," said Haile Rivera, from the Dominican Republic Consul General.

Every family wants to be under one roof sharing a Thanksgiving meal. This may not be under the roof these families had in mind, but it goes to show if home is where family is, then this for now looks a lot like home.

"At the end of the day, I'm grateful because I'm alive," Perez said.

And they have plenty to be thankful for.
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