ERIE, Pa. (AP) — Residents of a Pennsylvania city gathered to mourn and remember four of the five children who died when fire swept through a home child care center.
A funeral service was held Saturday in Erie for 8-year-old La'Myhia Jones, 6-year-old Luther Jones Jr., 4-year-old Ava Jones and 9-month-old Jaydan Augustyniak. All are siblings. The funeral for 2-year-old Dalvin Pacley was held Monday.
Three of the victims were the children of a volunteer firefighter, Luther Jones. Their mother, Shevona Overton, is also the mother of Jaydan. An adult and two adolescent boys were able to escape. Fire officials suspect last Sunday's blaze was accidental and possibly electrical.
"There are things that happen in this life that take years to understand. There are things that happen in this life that we will never understand," said Mayor Joe Schember. "Why are bright, beautiful children taken away from us in a tragic accident in the middle of the night?"
The most important lesson from such a tragedy, Schember said, "is to really value and treasure the relatives and friends that are still with us." And, he said, "only a strong belief in God can help us humans through a loss like this."
The Rev. Charles Mock of Community Baptist Church drew an ovation as he urged the community that had come together "Don't stop now."
"Don't stop the kisses, don't stop the hugs, don't stop the warm embraces, don't stop the coming together, don't stop the partnerships that have come out of five children who have gone into heaven," he said.
The Rev. Lamont Higginbottom Sr. of Second Baptist Church said children are born "without the sting of hate in their heart" and their loss "seems to rob the community of speech."
Drawing from the biblical story of Job, he said "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away" ... but "blessed be the name of the Lord."
Relatives of the victims, he said, "only entrusted you with the shell of these kids, because the soul of these kids belongs to Almighty God."