'In Their Death They Ordered the People to Unite'

Gabriel Sassoon, who lost seven children in the Flatbush fire, speaks about the tragedy 30 days later.

Ben Ariel, Canada,

Gail Sassoon and her children
Gail Sassoon and her children
Courtesy of the family

Gabriel Sassoon, the bereaved father who 30 days ago tragically lost seven of his young children in a fire at the family's home in Flatbush, Brooklyn, spoke Friday with the Israel Hayom newspaper.

Sassoon’s wife, Gail (Gila), is still in hospital suffering from burns to 50% of her body and doctors say she is expected to undergo a long rehabilitation period. His daughter Tziporah, who was injured in the fire, is slowly recovering.

"For the first two weeks Tziporah was sedated and on a respirator, and did not know at all what happened," recalled Sassoon in tears in the interview with Israel Hayom.

"When she began to wake up and ask questions about her mother, I told her that her mother was injured, and she was hospitalized at another hospital, which specializes in burns. Because her body was very weak, doctors recommended to hold off a few days before telling her what was going on. When she asked about her brothers, I calmed her down and told her they were in a safe place and not to worry. A week and a half later, two psychologists came to her room to tell her. They asked me to go outside, and after ten minutes they told me to come in. She was crying, and was very upset. I hugged her and we cried together. She felt lost, and asked what will happen with us now and where we will live. She wanted to hear about the funeral and see pictures. She kept asking about her mother and wanted to see her,” he added.

"It was important to me that each of my children’s tombstones will describe something about my children," he continued as he spoke of his seven children who were laid to rest in Israel. "Each of them was unique. Their death brought a lot of hearts together, and maybe that's why it happened. I feel as though in their death they ordered the people of Israel to unite."

In describing his children, a spark ignites in his eyes and he finds it difficult to talk about them in the past tense. "My children were the purest and most loved. They all had diligence, dignity, humility and joy of life. Whenever it snowed they would volunteer to help the older people who lived nearby clear the snow from their driveways,” recalled Sassoon.

He recalled hearing about the tragedy the next morning, from police officers who come to take him to the police station.

"At first I was not told what happened, and I was scared. It was only when I went into the police car that they told me there had been a fire in my house, and that my wife and my daughter Tziporah were injured and hospitalized. I was very worried, and I started crying. I asked the police officers who was with the other children, and they told me they are okay, and that I should come to the police station to provide more details about them. At this point I didn’t suspect anything. I just wanted to get to the hospital as quickly as possible and pray for Gail and Tziporah.”

"While the police bothered me with all sorts of irrelevant questions about the children, Gail’s three brothers already knew everything,” he continued. “One brother went to the hospital to be with her, and the other two went with a paramedic to tell her parents. They were afraid that her parents would hear about it from strangers, and they are both aged 80. My sister Bina traveled with Tziporah to the hospital, and her husband, Steve, was tasked with coming to the police station to tell me the news. When he arrived, I was very confused and scared, I did not understand what was happening. Then he delivered the terrible news. I just lay down on the floor and started to shout and cry...I felt like my soul had been taken away.”

"My consolation,” said Sassoon, “is that this loss opened the hearts of different types of people. At the funeral I said that any disaster which affects the Jewish people happens in order to awaken them and make them come together. If we were united, there would be no need for atonement and no need for victims. I hope that my children were the last victims, and that the people of Israel will be united. If that was G-d’s purpose, I accept it.”

"I am not the one to choose the price,” he continued. “I am very sad and in great pain. They were the love of my life, I miss them so much. I do not think I can even put into words how much I miss them. Obviously I would have preferred for them to stay alive and study Torah. But G-d decided, for His own reasons, that they should be with Him. I do not know the reasons, but they say He takes the best. My kids really were the best. People ask me how I can be so strong having lost all that was dear to me. But I'm not strong. Even strong things break. I give in to myself and give G-d a place to come in.”

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)




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