Written by The Chicago Defender
A day after an extra-alarm fire tore through a Morgan Park condominium building, its occupants sifted through the remains of their apartments, grabbing what they could as they pondered the future of their homes.
Meanwhile, neighborhood residents have stepped in to help, hoping their donations will ease the transition for the displaced condo owners.
"I'm sad that I don't have my home," said Brigette Douglas, who has lived in the building for about 15 years. "(Home) is where you can get peace. ... now it's gone."
The blaze started about 2:20 p.m. Saturday in the five-story condominium building at 2030 W. 111th St., fire officials said. The fire displaced about 64 residents, the officials said.
The Chicago Fire Department is investigating the cause of the fire.
Ald. Matt O'Shea, 19th, said that his office has received more than 100 calls and emails from people asking how they could help. The alderman held a meeting Sunday evening to take stock of the needs of the displaced condo dwellers and give them a place to plan their next steps.
"We are a very close-knit community to begin with, a community where neighbors look out for one another," O'Shea said Sunday. "I know tomorrow morning we will be returning phone calls saying this is what we need."
News of the fire prompted Stephanie Posey, president of the Southwest Morgan Park Civic Association, to reach out to O'Shea's office Sunday to find out how the association could help.
"It's really upsetting that people lose their homes," Posey said. "It makes you think what would happen if it would happen to you."
The association plans to meet next week and discuss potential relief efforts, she said. "I know a number of the neighbors around here would be interested in helping out," Posey said.
"One of the things that strikes me about the Morgan Park Community is how generous people are," she said. "It's definitely something that is part of the character of this neighborhood."
On Sunday, city officials escorted some of the residents back to their apartments to recover some of their possessions.
For Neal Dickinson, 66, the opportunity to go back into his condo meant a reunion with his cat, Roger.
The 6-year-old cat had spent the night alone in Dickinson's apartment, which was left mostly intact by the fire. After two trips into his apartment Sunday, Dickinson was able to find the cat hiding near his bed.
"You could tell he was really scared. ... He just sat there ... shivering on the end of the bed," Dickinson said as he cradled the cat in his arms. "He's my friend. It's just me and him that live there."
Other condo dwellers wondered where they are going to live as insurance companies sort out the details of their claims.
"If they are talking about eight months to two years, I'm gonna have to look for something," said Karen Walker, 47, who had lived in the building for about eight years. "I go in and out of crying. ... This is surreal."
Tribune reporter Dawn Rhodes contributed.