There was an outpouring of grief Sunday night on Treasure Island as a community mourned the death of a child. Stephanie Chuang reports.
An early morning fire Saturday at a Treasure Island apartment complex has left six families homeless.
One of those families has also lost a daughter and sister.
Corlina Godfrey, a ten-year-old girl who attended John Muir Elementary, was trapped on the second floor of her family’s apartment on the 1200-block of Mariner Drive, when flames tore through the building. More than 100 attended a Sunday night vigil just steps from where Corlina died.
Dozens, from family to friends to total strangers, shared stories, prayers, and sang songs like, “Jesus Loves Me.” Kareem Hickman, a local pastor, told those in the crowd to count their blessings as they grieved for Corlina.
“Every time we come to a crossroad of tragedy, we can remember it could have been us.” Corlina’s mother, Helen Zigler, came later to thank the crowd. She thought back to the moments after she realized her home was on fire.
Zigler said she thought she had gotten all of her kids out when she heard Corlina’s cries. “I didn’t know she was the only one still up there. Now as a parent I feel bad that I wasn’t able to go back to get her [because] they wouldn’t let me back in,” said Zigler.
“I heard her crying, saying, ‘Ouch,’ and after that I knew she was gone. I knew she left me.” The mountain of balloons, stuffed animals, notes, and flowers continued to grow Sunday night in memory of Corlina, who was known by many as a good student, lover of music and basketball, and aspiring teacher.
She had just celebrated her birthday a little more than a month ago on January 9.
Her cousin, 9-year-old Maenisha Godfrey, said Corlina was her favorite of the bunch because of her personality. “She was very nice and stuff. She was fun, always making up new songs, making up favorite games, dance and stuff. We’re going to miss her.” 10-year-old Sierra Hammond buried her face into her mother’s jacket as she cried for her friend. “I was playing with her a couple days ago,” she said.
“She was a good person. She was funny.” Another friend, 11-year-old Jada Victoria Conley, said she now has nightmares from the fire. “I’m kinda scared to go to sleep at night now because of what happened.” A neighbor and mother to one of Corlina’s friends, Brenda Salgado, fought back tears.
“Our children are supposed to bury us, we’re not supposed to bury our children.” But that is all Helen is thinking about right now – giving Corlina a proper burial. “My only wish right now – if I can get that – that will help me get through it is knowing she’s where she should be resting.” Many at the vigil promised help.
As for Corlina, her young friends had messages to her, if only they could see her one more time. “I would say I’ll die with you cause you’re still my best friend,” said Emily Salgado, 11. For Sierra Hammond, it was something else.
“I’d give her a hug and I’d say, ‘It’ll be all right.’” Additional Information: Corlina’s family says if you’d like to help with the burial or anything else, please contact the Catholic Charities. The Red Cross is helping the six displaced families with shelter in Oakland hotels.
Catholic Charities CYO for Treasure Island families
180 Howard Street, Suite 100 San Francisco, CA 94105