City Councilman Ritchie Torres was among the community and religious leaders who gathered at a neighborhood church Monday to announce the amount collected to help the victims of the Belmont building fire, as well as the distribution of donations collected.
The city lawmaker also detailed plans to honor Ghana native and Pvt. 1st Class Emmanuel Mensah.
“It means a lot,” said Mensah’s father, Kwabena Mensah, 62. “Ever since this happened, it’s been tough on us. He is a hero.”
Mensah, 28, was among the 13 victims of the fast-moving fire that destroyed the Prospect Ave. building on Dec. 28.
After the fire broke out on the first floor of the building, the young soldier, who was home for the holidays, saved four lives, officials said.
Mensah raced in and out of the burning building at least three times — bringing others to safety.
But he was unable to make it out himself.
He died on the fourth floor, where he was trying to evacuate other residents.
On Monday, his father said the street renaming would honor the grieving family.
“That is going to be nice on his legacy,” the senior Mensah said. “He will be remembered forever. He’s gone, but when I see the street with his name on it, that will put me in a good mood.
“Naming a street after him will keep him here forever.”
During the gathering outside Our Lady of Carmel Church in the Bronx, Torres also hailed all the different groups who have helped raise the funds.
“The progress that we have made is a product of partnership,” he said.
The money was raised in partnership with Our Lady of Carmel Church, the lead pastor, Jonathan Morris, Catholic Charities and the Belmont Business Improvement District.
More than two dozen loved ones of the victims have received assistance, community leaders said.
Torres said part of that help includes remembering the victims and heroes like Mensah.
“Emmanuel Mensah represents the best that this country and this community has to offer,” he said.
“He should be memorialized,” Torres told Mensah’s emotional father. “The purpose of recording history is to never forget. And we will record the name of your son so that his heroism in our darkest moments need not be forgotten.”
Mensah said his son always wanted to serve the country.
“When he came here first, his dream was to join the Army,” the proud dad said. “I think he fulfilled what he intended to do. It’s been tough on our family, especially my daughter.”
She was admitted to a hospital after her grief overcame her three days ago, he added.
“She started screaming in her sleep,” he said. “I asked her why. She said she has been seeing her brother. They were close.”
Then he added, “God is in control. We can mourn until the cows come (home). He’s not coming. I will remember him. It’s hard to talk about him. It brings back memories.”
Mensah will also receive a Medal of Valor and a Soldier’s Medal from the Army.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) urged the Army to pay a posthumous tribute to Mensah, and the Soldier’s Medal is the military branch’s highest peacetime honor for bravery not involving armed conflict.
Authorities say a 3-year-old boy ignited the blaze while playing with a gas stove inside his first-floor apartment. The boy’s mother, who escaped the inferno with the little boy and a second small child, did not close the door as she raced to safety, fire officials said.