Melkorka Licea reports in the NEW YORK POST:
Gayle Sassoon can’t look in the mirror without being transported back to that terrible moment. Her face is covered in an elastic medical mask, meant to help heal her cracked and brittle fire-ravaged skin. Third-degree burns mar 45 percent of her dainty frame. Her voice is raspy from smoke damage to her throat and lungs.
But Gayle’s physical injuries don’t compare to the pure emotional pain she feels each time she thinks about the night of March 21, 2015, when flames swallowed her Brooklyn home.
That is the day seven of her eight young children died.
Speaking publicly for the first time since the tragic fire, sparked when a hot plate used for Shabbos overheated, Gayle, 47, told The Post of her quest to go on living.
Recalling her effort to get past the flames to save her sleeping children, she says, “People look at me with the scars on my face and I just say, ‘What mother wouldn’t do that for their children?’ ”
“I tried my best,” she said.
The struggle continues daily. He surviving child, Tziporah, is 16. They live less than a mile from their destroyed Midwood home.
She manages to stay positive and forward-thinking, and has even begun taking classes at a Jewish women’s college.
But what really commands her focus is what she calls her “dream project” — a center for families that she wants to build on the site of her razed home, in honor of the young lives lost there. An architect has already designed the structure, with its seven pillars representing the seven children.
In just 10 days on GoFundMe (GoFundMe.com/the-sassoon-7-project), the project has attracted $91,000 in pledges. She needs $1 million.
“I want to turn tears into triumphs,” Gayle said.
“People think I need to go to bereavement classes, but that brings me down,” she added. “What consoles me most is working on the positive — not lamenting on the negative.”
Gayle couldn’t bring herself to talk in detail about the fire during the interview, but her cousin, Heather Fallas, 47, recounted what Gayle had told her previously.
The night of the fire, she and her eight children were asleep. The family kept a hot plate on for cooking the next day.
Gayleawoke suddenly, around midnight, choked by thick clouds of smoke. Flames had already torn up the stairs and were consuming the second floor, where the bedrooms were located, including hers.
“She ran into the fire to save her children,” the cousin said. “When she realized she couldn’t, she jumped out the window and ran across the street to get help.”
Tziporah jumped with her mother, and broke a shoulder and arm.
The other kids — Yaakov, 5; Sara, 6; Moshe, 8; Yehoshua, 10; Rivkah, 11; Dovid, 12; and Eliane, 16 — perished from burns and smoke inhalation.
It would have been “impossible” for Gayle to have saved them, said FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro.
Gayle credits the compassion of New Yorkers and her unwavering faith for getting them through the first weeks after the fire.
“I’m just so appreciative for what the world did. The people all held up my family when we were about to crumble,” she said, tears soaking her mask.
“I’m so grateful the world got to know who my kids were, even if it was in an unfortunate light,” she said.
“If you knew my kids, you can’t cry — you just have to cry from laughter. They brought nothing but joy,” she said.
“I remember one time the older brothers and sisters piled the little ones in a red wagon we had with ‘Sassoon’ spray-painted on the side. They were just like ‘The Little Rascals’ — all for one and one for all.”
The family center’s seven pillars will each be adorned with one child’s name, and there will be a “magnificent atrium for Tziporah,” Gayle said.
“I want the place to look like a museum with pictures of my kids and their personal toys and paintings,” she said.
“For anyone to think about my kids in a sad light, I couldn’t sleep at night,” Sassoon said. “They were just so full of life, and that’s what I want this project to show.”
Courtesy of the NEW YORK POST.