‘We still have our lives’: Residents from DC senior housing fire reflect on year

Dozens of the displaced residents of the Arthur Capper Senior building, which was heavily damaged in a September fire, and their families joined together at The Anthem in Southwest D.C. for a Thanksgiving dinner.

WASHINGTON —  Two months after a major fire damaged a senior housing building in Southeast D.C., some of its residents are still giving thanks today.

“No matter what we lost, we still have our lives,” said Roberta Miller, one of the roughly 160 residents of the Arthur Capper Senior building that was destroyed in a fire in September.

Dozens of the displaced residents and their families joined together at The Anthem in Southwest D.C. for a Thanksgiving dinner hosted by Edgewood Management, the management company for the senior housing complex.

They were happy to be in each other’s company and shared their reflections on surviving the destructive blaze. 

“No lives lost. Everybody made it out. I’m thankful for that, and I’m just grateful to be here and see so many of my friends and neighbors,” Delores Tyson Rhodes said.

The fire had caused them all to leave their tight-knit community so abruptly, Tyson Rhodes said. Since they were now spread out in new homes all over the area, she appreciated getting the chance to see everyone for Thanksgiving.

“We were a family and so I have touched bases with a lot of the people from the building, some that I hadn’t seen since the fire. It was so good seeing them. I’m collecting phone numbers and names so I can keep in touch with some of them,” Tyson Rhodes said.

For Bertha Crumble, she said she’s thankful for the help she has received since the fire, but she’s also ready to get back to a normal life.

“I’m doing great. The hotel’s treating me nice, but I’m just ready to get out and get a stove, and one frying pan and one pot, so I can cook some real food,” Crumble said.

As for the Thanksgiving meal, she’s extra thankful for that, as she said it would have been tough to cook one herself with the amenities in her hotel room.

“But, I’d be trying. Whatever that microwave would take, I’d put it in there,” she said.

Vicki Davis with Urban Atlantic, one of the companies managing the senior building, said she has a long list of people she’s thankful for this year.

“I’m really, really grateful to the first responders and the Marines who went into the building to bring people out, as well as the maintenance people who ran into the building and brought people out. I could not be more thankful!” Davis said.

She’s also celebrating the fact that new housing has been found for the displaced residents.

“Our city staff did the most amazing job of any city in the world in rehousing people and taking care of them from the first minute,” Davis said. “All the landlords we called through Bisnow actually came forth and offered their units to people, and it’s what has allowed us to rehouse 160 people within a period of a month.”

Many of the former Arthur Capper residents have already moved into their new homes, and others have move-in dates in the next few weeks.

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