By Tim Harfmann
The Richmond Hill, Queens Catholic community gathered to remember Silvia Umana and her children, Guadalupe and Gilbert, who died in a July 21 house fire.
“We’re mourning the community, but we’ll get together, we’ll pass, we will be okay,” said Norma Vasquez, whose son was friends with Guadalupe.
As a family, 51-year-old Silvia alongside her kids seven-year-old Guadalupe Perez, 15-year-old Gabriel Diaz and 19-year-old Gilbert Diaz, frequently attended Mass at Holy Child Jesus Church.
Only Gabriel survived the inferno.
At a Memorial Mass held on July 23, extended family and friends supported him.
Auxiliary Bishop Octavio Cisneros, the pastor of Holy Child Jesus, celebrated the Mass in English and Spanish.
After the service, there was an emotional outpouring of condolences.
“Oh, she was such a sweetheart,” said Ana Roja, whose daughter was best friends with Guadalupe. They were first-grade classmates together at Holy Child Jesus Catholic Academy.
“She was always happy and giving, smiles to everybody. she was a little bit shy at the beginning, but we always told her, ‘you go ahead and make good friends, make a lot of friends.’”
Friends placed flowers, stuffed animals and hand-written cards at a growing memorial outside the school.
One child wrote, “I know you’re in heaven with your mom, brother, and God.”
Before the Mass, parents gathered in the academy to find ways to better cope with the tragedy.
“It helped us a lot with the parents, that they were talking and how other parents cope with their kids and how they spoke,” Norma said.
She didn’t realize her fifth-grade son was friends with Guadalupe until she told him about the fire.
“He looked at me like, ‘I know her.’ And I was like, ‘you knew her?’ ‘Yes, she used to hug me every morning at breakfast and used to say ‘I missed you.’ Then he started to cry, so that got me even sadder.”
Silvia was a single mother from El Salvador.
The principal of Holy Child Jesus Catholic Academy Patricia Winters said the hardworking woman was involved in the lives of her children and of the school.
“Miss Umana loved her children. She was their biggest advocate, and she was also a great help to the school,” she said.
Mrs. Winters set up a donation page for people to help the family.