Family, friends and neighbors gather for 'homecoming' of two innocents


January 09, 1992|By Wiley A. Hall 3rd

They called the 5-year-old girl Lee-Lee.

The 4-year-old boy was nicknamed Man-Man.

They were brother and sister and five days dead.

Lee-Lee and Man-Man lay side by side in twin, ivory-colored coffins at Brown's Funeral Home yesterday.

Their pictures, wreathed in flowers and placed on top of each coffin, showed the same wide, innocent eyes, the same chipmunk cheeks. They looked like two adorable little children.

Best to remember them that way.

And maybe that is why nobody, but nobody, talked about the horrible way Lee-Lee and Man-Man -- Reva Shalita Moore and Anthony Jamar Moore -- died.

The two were trapped in an East Baltimore rowhouse Jan. 3, police say, when an alleged drug dealer firebombed the house in an attempt to get back at another adult with whom he had argued.

A 32-year-old unemployed man was charged with the homicides Tuesday.

In a time of war, the deaths of two innocent, young bystanders would have been profoundly tragic.

In a time of supposed peace, however, their deaths were unthinkably, unforgivably, unbearably, insane.

You want to cry out, Why, oh Lord, why?

You want to gnash your teeth and pound your fist in sorrow and frustration and rage.

You want the world to stop, to cease, until we can figure this all out, until we can resolve this problem of young people dying horrible, senseless deaths, this slaughter of innocents right next door.

I am sure that is how the rows upon rows of family and neighbors and friends felt at the funeral services for Lee-Lee and Man-Man yesterday.

You could see it in their clenched faces, in their balled-up fists and their stiff and unyielding postures.

But participants at the service were doggedly determined to celebrate these deaths as a "homecoming," not a tragedy.

Perhaps this is what true faith is about.

"I will not grieve," shouted the Rev. John C. Bates, of St. Anthony's Church in Washington, clasping his hands in an attitude of joy, "because this is not a funeral, this is a consecration of God's angels.

"My Bible tells me that we cry at the incoming, when they are born, because we know that they are coming into a den of iniquity and pain.

"But we rejoice when they leave," he cried, "because they are entering a heavenly plain."

Said Clifton Ball, Lee-Lee's principal at Harford Heights Elementary School, "It has been said that Lee-Lee was patient, kind, caring, a good learner, sharp-witted, warm, sweet and independent child. And, although we did not know her brother, we are sure that he was much the same.

"So you can see why such children as these would be the ones God selected from His garden, because God wants only perfection."

And then it was time for the father, Thomas Hobbs, to speak.

He walked slowly forward, to stand in the front of the twin coffins. He stood there tensely for several long moments, his head bent to one side as if he were battling immense internal pain.

Reverend Bates cried out, "Father! Give him strength!" and, as if on cue, Hobbs pulled himself together.

"We are all going to miss them," he said hoarsely.

"But we've got to do something. We can't let this sort of thing continue. We've got to come together and do it. We've got to do it for Lee-Lee and Man-Man. We've got to do it for my family. We've got to do it. We've just got to do it."

The children's mother could not speak.

Lee-Lee's kindergarten teacher, Kimberly Munchell, could not speak.

And so, the ceremony of homecoming ended on that note of desperate faith, that plea for sanity.

Outside of the funeral establishment, a television news team approached the father and asked for his comments.

For just a second, he let his bitterness show. "This whole thing was pitiful," he said angrily. "For them to die like that was pitiful. This world -- something has got to be done about this world. Things are getting ridiculous."

But then a relative clasped him about the shoulders and led him away.

And the funeral procession headed off to the cemetery -- not to rage there at the injustice of this world, but to celebrate the homecoming of two innocents.

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