BOISE, Idaho – Little Melissa Kadir had sparkling eyes, a few basic stuff and not much else when they arrived in Boise, Idaho more than two years ago.
But in just six months old, she had the most important thing: A mother who loved her so fiercely that she left behind her homeland, her husband and everything she knew Melissa would grow up in a safe place.
Melissa was at her third birthday party complete with a pink, doll-shaped cake and a Disney princess banner Saturday evening, when a man armed with a large knife and attacked. Melissa and five other children were seriously injured, together with the three adults who tried to protect them.
Timmy Kinner, a 30-year-old homeless man who had recently been a guest in the apartment complex where Melissa lived, is charged with first-degree murder and several other crimes in connection with the attack. Police say Kinner had recently been asked to leave the apartment complex because of bad behavior. They say that the attack was not a hate crime.
Melissa’s mother Bifituu Kadir is the mourning of her little girl, killed in the community that was supposed to keep her safe.
“I remember Melissa when she was just a bundle in my arms,” said Megan Schwab, an employment specialist with the International Rescue Committee, who befriended Bifituu and Melissa when she first arrived in Boise as Ethiopian refugees in December 2015.
“It was a very long journey, not something they talk about much, but I know that she was fleeing violence,” Schwab said. “She was alone with her small baby and very strong … she had a lot of the decisions for the protection of her baby and a new life for them.”
From the first meeting, Bifituu and Schwab would go baby Melissa to and fro as they filled out job applications and other papers which are focused on obtaining of the Kadir family is well arranged. When Schwab realized Bifituu had almost no baby items in her apartment, they found them hand-me-down furniture and clothes.
Bifituu home “will always be a monument to Melissa,” full of things that the child loved, Schwab said.
“She loved shopping and dressing up is very fashionable, just like her mother,” she said. “The Disney princesses were her favorite, and everything that was pink.”
Schwab saw Melissa only a month before the feast, and was struck by how much they had grown. No longer toddling, Melissa flitted through the room, where Schwab and Bifituu were talking. She stopped a moment, fixed her large, long-lashed eyes on Schwab and smiled. When she dashed off in a game of chase with the neighborhood kids.
On Monday morning, Schwab saw Melissa and Bifituu again, this time in Salt Lake City hospital. They and other good friends were there to say goodbye to their sparkling girl.
“I will say that I am very privileged to be able to be there,” Schwab said, her eyes filling with tears. “Her mother has a very strong and … the community is really her back to help her move through those last moments and help her to start with the stages of grief.”
Another child injured in the attack has since been released from the hospital, but some of the remaining seven victims face long roads to recovery, said Julianne Donnelly Tzul, the executive director of the IRC Boise. All the injured persons were refugees from Ethiopia, Syria and Iraq.
“I can’t identify who got what,” Donnelly Tzul said. “But there are slash marks to faces that surgery and reconstructive surgery. There is at least an injury to the spine can lead to paralysis, to some extent, and many of the stab and puncture wounds.”
Many have reached out to help, including Boise Muslim community and other religious and social groups. It is a crime as horrific as this means that the refugee families have needs in the coming years, not only the next few weeks, Donnelly Tzul said.
Some of the injured do not have health insurance, and some of the other questions of medical care that is not covered. They also need guidance and many are losing work time, making it difficult to cover basic costs of living. And what should be on the lookout for new places to live for their own mental health, said Donnelly Tzul, and so will need help with the removal of the costs, such as the first months rent and a security deposit.
The International Rescue Committee has launched an online fundraiser for those looking to help.
With a little luck, Bifituu the man will be able to join her in Boise. The IRC works with immigration services and officials of the government to try to get him to the US.
“Arrangements have been made to Melissa back to Boise,” Schwab said: “so, that her mother may still have her baby here.”