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Death Of Dallas Ebola Patient Concerns And Saddens Vickery Meadow Residents

A little more than two weeks ago when Thomas Eric Duncan arrived in the U.S., he stayed at his girlfriend’s apartment in Dallas' Vickery Meadow neighborhood. Today, the ethnically diverse community of immigrants and refugees in the neighborhood learned of his death by word of mouth and watching TV.

Inside Arif Café, a TV was tuned to CNN. Customers strolled in to eat lunch – a mix of traditional Ethiopian fare. Others, like 19-year-old Bink Ahmed, ordered food to go, her eyes glued to the TV.

“When I hear Ebola, every night when I sleep, I say, ‘Oh my God, Ebola, Ebola,” she said. “I feel so worried. Then, I hear the guy’s died.”

­Ahmed echoed the thoughts of many residents here.

“I feel sorry for him,” she said.

Like many of her neighbors, the Somali native came as a refugee from a camp in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Some like Dawit Tesfay of Eritrea fled war-ravaged countries. He’s only been in Texas 10 months, and says he never imagined moving to a place where Ebola leads the headlines daily.

“This disease -- no one is happy when we are listening to the media … and the community is very [scared], very [scared],” he said.

Outside the café, some regulars sat talking about the “Ebola patient.” Zelalem Derese, who’s from Ethiopia, worried that proper hospital procedures weren’t followed.

“When the first day he arrived at the hospital, instead of sending him back home to his house, they should have checked other procedure just to check whether he got it from Ebola,” Derese said.

When he returned to Presbyterian Hospital the second time, Derese said Duncan should have been given the experimental drug immediately.

“He’s a human being at the end of the day,” Derese said. “I know they were saying he’s not a citizen of the United States … but that’s not the question. He’s a human being. He’s sick. He needs help.”

Others weren’t as sympathetic. Store owner Blanca Shaban, who’s originally from Ecuador, said the U.S. government needs to take more drastic measures.

Speaking in her native Spanish, she said: “The U.S. government should suspend flights to [and from] Africa. Those who leave shouldn’t be able to return.”

One thing she and her neighbors do agree on? They just want to feel safe.

Stella M. Chávez is KERA’s immigration/demographics reporter/blogger. Her journalism roots run deep: She spent a decade and a half in newspapers – including seven years at The Dallas Morning News, where she covered education and won the Livingston Award for National Reporting, which is given annually to the best journalists across the country under age 35.