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Winona: Fire out; gratitude in

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Now that the fire is out, Winona is celebrating some heroes. The Winona Daily News reports that Muslims have been welcomed to worship Allah in two area churches. “We have Jews, Christians, Muslims calling us,” said Ahmed El-Afandi, founder of the Winona Islamic Center destroyed in the fire. “Let’s make (this) an opening-up for better relationships with our neighbors.” He said staying positive was essential as he and other Muslim leaders figure out next steps. He said the mosque was also a gathering place for Muslims from La Crosse and other communities near Winona.

The Winona Daily News also has this story about local heroes. A couple who lost their apartment were able to evacuate with their three cats, but firefighters recovered their bearded dragon and the woman's car key.“All the pets are safe,” Danielle Koch said. "We thank the firefighters." The paper quotes the Red Cross saying local grocery stores and restaurants helped feed the rescue crews.

KARE 11 has the story of a Winona State University student who was helped to safety by her neighbor, Abdulla Almomnned, who just came to Winona from Saudi Arabia to go to school at Winona State.

"I can't thank him enough," said Maggie Ryan, a sophomore from New Hope. "He saved my life and my friends. I can't show him enough gratitude."

About 20 students lost their homes in the fire. The Red Cross and the university are helping them find new ones.

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