Neighbors throw Sweet 16 party for Des Plaines apartment fire victim

DES PLAINES, Ill. (WLS) -- The 51 rooms in Selma Hurem's Best Western are almost always full, but she found space for Esma Kendic, her 16-year-old son Jasko, and two other families after their Des Plaines apartment complex caught fire Sunday.

Selma was also a resident of the Landings Complex, but lived in a building unaffected by the fire.

"I believe in helping people, I am actually a refugee from Bosnia so I know how it feels to lose everything in one day and I feel very sorry for everything that happened to these people," Hurem said.

When the fire broke out, Esma and Jasko ran for their lives with just their cell phones, purse and wallet. They lost everything else and won't be able to return home for a year.

Kendic is also a refugee from the Bosnian war. A single mother, Kendic arrived in America at age 21 in 1996 after losing everything.

"It is shocking for us, family, for everyone that was living in the complex," Kendic said of the fire.

In the midst of his family's loss, Hurem thought it was only right to make something of Jasko's sweet 16 Wednesday, so she pulled together food donated from area businesses and clothes donated from strangers.

"I will always remember this happening," Jasko said. "Everyone is trying to help out. It was nice of them."

"I could pass the message, this could happen to anyone," Kendic said. "We have to stand for each other in any kind of circumstances."
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