Our family travelled to Paris, our hearts laden with grief, yet united in our mission to make sure that by shedding light on Jasmine’s untimely death, we build a safer world for her friends whom she cherished all her life. We spent a very busy week in Paris, crammed with meetings with City and college officials, fueled with an urgent desire to find out whom or what caused the fire in apartment building that eventually resulted in death of Jasmine and her other three friends, two other friends with severe injuries and caused many families to be destitute as they lost their homes and belongings.
Along the way, we met many wonderful people, grief stricken and shocked, ready to help us in any which way they could. We would like to express our gratitude to the president of Science Po, Mr. Richard Descoings, for his hospitality and his staff, to name a few, Mr. Peter Gumbell, Director of the American Studies, Mr. Frances Verilland, Vice President of International Affairs and professor Eloid Nowinski who accompanied us in many meetings and who helped us understand the intricacies of French policies, history and City planning of Paris. We would like to thank US Embassy in Paris, especially Mr. Ed Gallegher, who not only stayed in close contact with us during the past difficult month, but also facilitated meetings with the Mayor office, the Police and Fire Department. . Of course, Jasmine’s friends-so many of them, educated, and compassionate- visited and surrounded us like butterflies, they laughed and cried with us and by sharing their fun memories took away our pain, since we realized that Jasmine truly loved her stay in Paris and she was always in company of good friends.
The two other individuals whom we had a pleasure to know better and to spend a great deal of time together were Mr. Christopher Newfield, Director of UC Education aboard Program in Paris and Mrs. Shelby Ocana, Program Administrator for UC Study Center in Paris. They are developing a program and releasing funds to assemble “jasmine Safety Kit” which will be provided to every University of California student who will study in France. The Jasmine Safety Kit will include a smoke detector, a personal Fire extinguisher, a safety ladder and educational booklet as what to do in case of fire.
Paris is a beautiful city with very old buildings. It did not take us long to realize that most apartment buildings have only one narrow stairway to exit the building, that there is not a mandatory law to install smoke detectors and Fire Extinguishers in the old privately owned buildings, and that many apartments face small courtyards in the back, where no one can access in case of the fire. There are multiple fires in Paris every day, and yet, a little has been done to provide early detection to residents of the buildings. The healing part of the trip was that everyone we met unanimously agreed that changes are long due to improve the fire safety in France and that there was a movement-a social awareness- visible wherever we went, due to the April 14th fire that involved so many bright and international students, including our beloved Jasmine.
The Mayor’s office met with us twice. On our first visit, we met Mayor Fredrique Calandre (a graduate of Science Po and elected only three years ago) and her assistant Mr. Silvester Pirot. On the follow-up visit, we met her office manager Mr. Sebastian Roy and Luthenat Galot from the Fire Department. The important results of the above meetings are as follows:
1) In upcoming June Parliamentary meeting, one of the members, Ms. Hofman Rispal, is going to discuss the urgency of installing smoke detectors and fire extinguishers in all the buildings, now, and not waiting till year 2015-2016. This law will apply to France as a country!
2) The 20th district is planning to start a fire safety education program in the elementary schools. The material for this program will be provided by an association called “Malaika” which was established when a fire in their neighborhood (13th District) killed 25 people mostly children.
3) The Fire Department with the aid of mayor’s office will identify a building in similar condition as the building that took Jasmine’s life and our foundation will outfit that building with fire safety equipment in memory of Jasmine.
4) Our website will be linked to the 20th District City hall website to assist with promoting fire safety.
On our next blog we will share stories and post pictures of our separate gathering with the Science Po students and the residents of The Labyrinth City where we distributed the 100 smoke detectors that we took with us to Paris. Till then stay safe and report to us the buildings that you find deficient in Fire Safety.
Go to part two.