The stories of the victims of the Buffalo blizzard
Abdul Sharif, 26, left his home in Buffalo on Saturday afternoon in stormy conditions to pick up milk and other supplies. He never came back.
Sharif is among at least 39 victims in Erie County, New York, from the winter storm that buried the city of Buffalo in nearly 52 inches of snow, trapping residents in their homes — many without heat as the Christmas weekend storm took power.
Most of the victims were found dead either outside or in their homes, while others died in their cars as a result of delays in emergency medical services and snow removal or cardiac arrest, officials said.
The missing were loving mothers, daughters and sons and, in Sharifu’s case, a joyful expectant father with a big heart.
His wife, Gloria Mawazo, who is pregnant and days away from giving birth, told his cousin Ally Sharifu that her husband had left to get food for a family that had sought his help.
She advised him not to go before lying down for a nap around noon, Ally Sharifu said. When she woke up that evening, her husband was not at home.
After sharing his photo on Facebook, the family received a call about a man who was rushed to a children’s hospital after being found lying in the street, said Ally Sharifu, who identified his cousin’s body at a hospital the next morning. The men were refugees from the Congo who moved to the US in 2017 after spending about five years in a refugee camp in Burundi, he said.
While Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said at a press conference Wednesday that Abdul went out to get food for his pregnant wife, family members believe he was actually shopping for another family — which was typical of to.
“My cousin was a very good man. When you called him to help you, he would help,” said Ally Sharifu, who shares a house with his cousin and his wife. “That’s why he went outside to get the milk, because he wouldn’t care what it looks like outside, he’ll try to come and help you.”
The family has yet to learn from the hospital or authorities what caused Abdul’s death, Ally Sharifu said.
Ally Sharifu said Abdul was “very happy to be a father” and was saving money to buy a house. Abdul worked at a manufacturing plant in Cheektowaga as a machine operator, he said.
A close family friend, Enock Rushikana, told CNN that Abdul’s parents died in the 2002 civil war in Congo.
“He grew up as an orphan, so he had this dream to go back and help those children who lost their parents in the civil war,” Rushikana said. “He was an angel in our community. We nicknamed him ‘911,’ because whoever called him, he was ready to help.”
Monique Alexander was considered a kind of superwoman by her daughter, Casey Maccarone. But even so, when Alexander, 52, decided to come out on Christmas Eve, Maccarone worried.
It would have been a simple decision any other day, but a storm was coming.
After two hours, when she hadn’t returned, Maccarone asked on a Buffalo Blizzard Facebook page if anyone had seen her mother, she said.
A few minutes later, a stranger texted her and asked her to call him, Maccarone said.
“He immediately burst into tears,” she said. “He was stranded too and was walking down the road and saw her in the snow. So, he took it and put it under the tent … so it wouldn’t snow again.
“Her grandchildren were waiting for her to come home,” she added. “We were waiting for her to come home.”
Alexander had been through severe storms before and she walked everywhere.
“She’s always felt … invincible, so I’m assuming she just thought she could handle the conditions,” Maccarone said. “I can’t say anything to my mom, she will do what she wants to do. I guess she just thought she was strong enough for him.”
Maccarone said the family lost their rock and someone they could call on for anything.
“My children lost their grandmother and that was her most important role in her life … being a good grandmother,” she said. “And now they only have memories.”
Demetrius Robinson, a 58-year-old carpenter, was found in a snowbank the day before his birthday, his sister Elizabeth Rodolph told CNN.
“Such a beautiful person has been taken from our lives,” said Rodolph. “He was the friendliest, gentlest and most loving and cheerful person you will ever meet.”
Robinson’s family became concerned after they were unable to meet him last Friday, she said. They stopped by his home earlier this week, but it was a call to the coroner’s office that brought them the unwelcome answer. His body was sent there on Sunday.
Rodolph said she wasn’t sure what Robinson was doing outside or how long his body was in the snow before it was found.
She said he enjoyed sharing his hobby of cooking.
“He loved cooking. He always invited the neighborhood kids who were out playing to eat whatever he made. He treated everyone like family,” Rodolph said.
He left a son and a daughter.
Robinson’s son, Marqll Daniels, described his father as his role model and hero.
“I always asked my father for many things. He would always talk to me about how to be a good person. He had a really big heart,” Daniels said.
Melissa Morrison was found in the snow near a Tim Horton’s coffee shop in Buffalo.
Her body was found after her mother, Linda Addeo, became concerned when her son read social media posts on Friday about a body found near the cafe near Morrison’s home. Addeo said the medical examiner’s office on Tuesday confirmed to her family that the body was that of Morrison, a 46-year-old mother of two from Buffalo.
The family isn’t sure what Morrison was doing outside, Addeo said. She left behind two sons.
“Today is the most devastating day of our lives, we lost our beautiful daughter to the storm,” Linda Addeo wrote on Facebook Tuesday after being notified of her daughter’s death.
She added, “I don’t know how or what to do, I’ll never be the same.”
Morrison was a Buffalo native, homemaker and mother.
“She was a young and beautiful person. She was nice and funny. She would do anything for anyone,” Addeo said.
Anndel Taylor was a 22-year-old woman who grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina, and who remained in touch with family members there throughout her final hours in the storm.
She was found dead after being trapped in her car by the storm, her family told CNN on Tuesday.
Taylor was on her way home from work at a senior center and was only a six-minute drive from her home when she became stranded, said relatives, who were furious when they lost contact with her.
Tomeshia Brown, one of Taylor’s older sisters, told CNN that Taylor sent a video in a group chat with her sisters around 3 p.m. on Friday. In the video, Taylor captured the snow and whiteout conditions. She told her sisters who live in North Carolina that she was stuck and it was still snowing, Brown said.
Taylor called 911 and was waiting for first responders, Brown and Wanda Brown Steele — Taylor’s mother — told CNN.
“Her plan was to wait until the police got there,” her sister said. But if that failed, she planned to “get up and walk as soon as her car ran out of gas.”
In the early hours of Christmas Eve, Taylor would send her final video message to the group chat. In it, Taylor opens the driver’s side window of her car, revealing a road turned into a barren, snowy wasteland. Taylor texted the chat that she thought the snow would probably be up to her waist if she got out of her car.
After tracking her phone to an address, Brown posted the information on a private Facebook page called Buffalo Blizzard 2022 to ask for help. Later that evening, she received a call from an unnamed man. “He let us know he checked her pulse and there was no pulse,” Brown said.
“I really didn’t believe it,” she said. “It was like a stabbing feeling in my stomach, a pain I’ve never felt before.”
It wouldn’t be until the next day that Taylor’s body was removed from the car, Brown said, after a woman sent a message on Facebook to let Brown know she had also found the car — and her sister’s body.
With emergency personnel unable to reach the car, the woman waited until Taylor’s relatives who live in Buffalo arrived. They all helped move Taylor’s body to another vehicle, where she was taken to the hospital, Brown said.
Taylor was described by her sister as “a caring and nurturing person”.
“If she could help it, she would help you,” said her mother.
Taylor would have turned 23 next month, Brown said.