The photograph was creased and worn in the edges. It was a delicate piece of paper now, with a faded image of a middle-aged woman. The woman had large green compassionate eyes, which fluttered with innocence. Her curly, soft brown hair cascaded around her left shoulder. Her skin was a fair color of mahogany. The woman was wearing a dark royal blue salwar kameez, with a golden floral lace pattern. The woman’s eyes sparkled, as her gentle smile illuminated her face. The woman in the photograph was my mother. My mother’s name was Safina Angela. Safina died in the Dhaka factory fire, which occurred in November 2012.
On November 24, 2012, a fire broke out in the Tazreen Fashion Factory, which was located in Ashulia District. The fire was caused by an electrical short circuit that started on the ninth-story of the factory. Therefore, the workers above the ninth-ground floor were trapped, since the fire exits led to the ground floor of the building. The fire burned more than seventeen hours before firefighters were successfully able to distinguish it. Many workers were unable to escape, and a total of 117 people were claimed dead.
I’m able to vividly remember, the day I received the fateful news of the incident. I was walking back from Narayanganji High School; the high school I attended every day from 6am-7pm. From a distance of the narrow path I was following, I could see thick pitch-black clouds of smoke, billowing while the sun disappeared. I continued walking in the direction of the path, each step getting nearer to the scene of darkness. I stopped a few blocks away from the location; my pulse began vibrating louder and faster within my chest. There was a mass of people struggling their way to the surrounding of the front of the building – the building in which my mom was working at. The rage began boiling up inside of me and my hands began trembling. I started pushing my way through the crowd until I got to the front. I cast my eyes wearily and noticed several bodies were found burned alive. Among these bodies were several young men, women, and children. These bodies were completely charred, which made it difficult to recognize the bodies. I walked through each carcass analyzing every feature I could depict, in a desperate search for my mother. While walking through the fifth row, out of the corner of my eye, a glimmer shone brightly. I walked towards the source, trying to identify where it had come from. The source appeared to be coming from the end of the 5th row. Once I arrived, the body was coated with a dry thick crust of burn that extended throughout the victim. However, the victim was wearing a classic golden heart necklace on a cable link chain. It was the same necklace my mom had received for her 20th birthday. I deliberately detached the necklace from the corpse and placed it into the pocket of my salwar kameez. Tears started forming in my eyes as I tried to hold it back. Soon enough, my vision became blurry and I could feel each tear dripping individually as they escaped my eyelid. I finally gave up, and allowed the tears to flood my cheeks.
Before my mother died, she constantly inspired me to continue my education. My mother sacrificed working at a factory with poor conditions, so I would pursue my education by attending school every day. My education was precious to me. It was valuable, and I always enjoyed going to school.