College of Westchester student Gomez waited patiently outside the White Plains YMCA Saturday in hopes of retrieving his personal belongings.
“I was only able to grab my bag and my sneakers,” said Gomez, an international student whose family lives in Africa. “My cell phone is still in there...I haven’t been able to call my family and tell them what happened. I don’t really want to tell them, because then they’ll start to worry.”
Gomez is one of the more than 100 believed to reside in the building, which was was shut down after fire ignited on the third-floor and two bodies were found inside Saturday morning. Police are investigating the incident as a possible murder-suicide.
A temporary shelter has been set up at the White Plains Senior Center at 65 Mitchell Pl. until officials reopen the YMCA.
Caroline Sherwin, a spokeswoman with the American Red Cross of Greater New York, said the shelter is expected to remain open until at least Monday morning.
“About 44 people stayed at the shelter [Saturday] night and we’re expecting to see the same amount of people again,” Sherwin said Sunday. “We’ve been working closely with the police and Y officials. The situation is ongoing and we’re hoping that repairs are eventually made. But I think everyone is feeling better after a full night’s rest. They’ve been getting fed and have had their needs attended to. We were able to go to our warehouse and get them socks and the police have been working with us to get their medication.”
In the meantime, White Plains YMCA members are being allowed to use Y facilities in Rye and New Rochelle until the building is reopened.
According to the Journal News, the Westchester County Medical Examiner’s Office performed autopsies on Michael Solomon, 68, of Elmsford, and another 63-year-old man. Solomon, a security guard at the YMCA, was found dead behind the first-floor lobby.
The second body, whose name is being withheld pending the notification of family members, was found on the third-floor where the fire originated.
Diane Ryan, the mental health coordinator at Red Cross, said residents have been dealing with Saturday’s events in different ways.
“I think in most of these event you find that people experience confusion, disbelief and they start wondering how this could happen,” Ryan said. “After things sink in and the shock wears off, the concerns change to what are the plans and what is the next step for where I need to be.”
Ryan said grief counselors will be made available as long as a shelter remains open. Residents have also been given phone numbers for counselors if they need further support.Anyone who wants to donate to Red Cross can do some by going to nyredcross.org. People can specify where they’d like their donations to go.