MANCHESTER, NH – Nadia Osman was working her housekeeping shift at the Radisson when she got the call no mother wants to hear.
“My sister called and told me there was a fire,” said Osman, a single-mother. She rushed home, not knowing if her five children, left in the care of her sister, were safe.
“I was a wreck,” said Osman, still wearing her work uniform bearing the smell of smoke six hours later. She hadn’t eaten yet. Her nerves were still shot. She was with Red Cross relief worker Kim Richards, who was there to assist in providing some gift cards to be used to help Osman replace some of what was lost in the fire.
Fire officials said there is extensive fire and water damage from the noon-time blaze on Nov. 15, leaving the apartment uninhabitable.
A fire was sparked inside her apartment when Osman’s 5-year-old son hid in the closet to play with a lighter, Osman said. When her sister realized there was a fire she called a neighbor and they tried to extinguish the blaze, but it spread too quickly.
“It got too big too fast. I was so afraid one of the children was hurt – or worse,” said Osman, still on the edge of tears when a coworker stopped by the management office, where Osman was finishing up paperwork with Richards.
The two friends embraced and cried, as Osman explained the situation.
Osman was given a few options for temporary housing. Fortunately, there was another apartment available in the same public housing complex, operated by Manchester Housing Authority, so getting her children settled in will be minimally disruptive.
Osman excuses herself and does a headcount of her children, who have been waiting with her for six hours in the small office. Some of them are outside playing with cousins.
She returns, still visibly shaken from the earlier ordeal, speaking softly about what’s next.
She says she isn’t sure what has been lost, or what she will need until she can get back inside the apartment on Monday. The second-floor bedroom window is boarded shut and fire officials say police are investigating the situation, along with the fire marshal’s office.
But she is grateful for the assistance from Red Cross and her neighbors, and the open apartment she can move into right away, which means she won’t have to stay at a motel.
Osman came to Manchester nine years ago as a refugee from South Sudan. Although the fire is a setback, she says life for her here is much better than the life she left behind.
“As long as my children are safe, everything is OK,” she said.