All photos by Chantelle D’mello
The event was organized by Nicola Delaney, a British expat who’s been living in Qatar for four years, and Amy Bambridge, who is the mother of twins. They are both members of the Mums of Multiples in Qatar group, which was originally founded by Jane Weekes, a New Zealander who lost her 2-year-old triplets in the fire.
Though the turnout was considerably less than last year, organizers said they were determined to remember the victims. Qatar temperatures reached nearly 50C today, and the heat probably played a major role in deterring people, said Bambridge and Delaney, who opted to leave their kids at home.
Speaking to Doha News, Delaney said:
“The Mums of Multiples in Qatar group gathered with our children early today in West Bay and released 19 balloons in memory. When Amy and I realized that nothing else was happening today, we decided to (hold a memorial). We just posted the event on Facebook and even if it were just the two of us, we’d still come.”
The location of today’s vigil was the same site that hundreds gathered at the day after the mall fire in 2012, and during last year’s memorial. Attendees brought flowers, candles, and teddy bears to represent their grief and remembrance.
Bambridge and Delaney opened the memorial with a few words, saying, “(We want) to keep the memory going and to remind people of what happened, especially as justice has not been served, and things are quickly going back to normal.”
After reciting the names of the 19 victims, Bambridge lit candles as Delaney struck a triangle after each was lit.
A moment of silence was then observed.
Security guards from Aspire showed up at the scene of the memorial twice to inquire about the purpose of the gathering, how many people were involved, and whether prior permission was acquired from Aspire management, as per regulations.
Although they did not ask the group to disperse or to report to management, Bambridge and Delaney decided to take the candles and flowers home, rather than display them overnight, as was originally intended.
Speaking to Doha News, Amelia, 11, who was there with her mom said: “I am here because I want to remember, not necessarily what happened, but who the people who died were.”
Nerusia, who works with the Spanish Ladies in Qatar Association, said she came to support all of the families involved in the tragedy. Four Spanish children were killed in the fire – siblings Almudena (7), Camilo (5) and Alfonso (2) Travesedo; and Isabel Vela, 7 years old. The families have since moved back to Spain. She continued:
“It is important to let the authorities know that this is not forgotten. Justice still needs to be served. Even if some of the families are no longer in Doha, we want them to feel that we’re with them, and we feel their grief. This could have happened to any of us.”
People were visibly moved during the memorial, with many gathered shedding tears during the moment of silence.
The event also highlighted the importance of keeping an oral history alive, organizers said.
“With such a big turn over of people in Qatar, it is easy for the memory of (the victims) to slip by and be forgotten,” Bambridge said. She had visited the mall earlier, and spotted this token of remembrance:
Someone has left this in Villagio and the guards tried to stop me from photographing it. pic.twitter.com/ZVViBRafbK
— Amy Bambridge (@escapetoqatar) May 28, 2014
For Delaney, the memory of the triplets is especially poignant:
“My twins have the (Weekes’) triplets’ nursery furniture. Although I was reluctant to take it at first, I was honoured to keep it in memory of them. Every time I put my twin girls to bed, I feel the triplets are watching over them.”