A year after massive Marco Polo blaze, there's still healing — and heartbreak

'Overwhelming grief': Residents still healing a year after deadly Marco Polo fire

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Saturday marks one year since a deadly seven-alarm blaze ravaged the Marco Polo condominium building in McCully.

In the aftermath of the fire, many residents were forced to start over because hundreds of units were damaged.

Resident Will Brown chose to stay in Marco Polo, but says the last year has been chaotic with the inspections, repairs, and residents moving in and out.

"About two months ago, they discovered a lot of mold between kitchen walls, so all these walls had to be ripped out. That meant another move. So you just don't know what the next shoe is to drop," said Brown, who lived on the 12th floor during the fire, but has since moved to the 29th floor.

Brown says while the images of flames and falling debris bring back painful memories, he instead tries to remember the way the community came together to support the residents.

"There were people down here two days later serving meals, sorting clothes, helping those who had no home, no food, no clothes, no source of money, or anything. And they were helping everybody. That's heart," said Brown, trying to hold back tears.

On the 25th floor, Nezia Azmi and her husband resorted to several short-term moves following the Marco Polo fire.

The couple, who works at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, stayed on friends' couches, and in dorm rooms and hotels for about a month after the fire.

They eventually found another rental in a different building.

"We didn't have access to the rest of their stuff until four months later since the fire," Azmi said.

"I think the building association could've done a more compassionate job at communicating. I'm not going to say they didn't try, I think they did, but let this be a lesson learned. I think compassion should come first," Azmi said.

Azmi says things like going to work and eating at their favorite Pho restaurant helped bring back a sense of normalcy into their lives.

"We were just thankful that we were still alive. Four people died from the fire and that still haunts us. I think it haunts everybody who was affected," Azmi said.

Phil Reller, who lost both his mother and brother in the blaze, says the grief is still overwhelming.

"I think by far the hardest part has been those times when I go back in my memories and I think about their last half hour, the last hour of their life, and the horror they went through," said Reller.

Reller says its been like having a full-time job trying to take care of their finances and documents since everything was destroyed in the fire.

"You get statements and bills and letters saying when are you going to take care of this, but you can't get any information. There's never going to be closure," Reller said.

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