'Everyone loved them,' teacher says Mourners fondly recall 6 children killed in fire

March 08, 1997|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

On a crystal-clear yet cold March morning, more than a thousand mourners filled the pews of the First Apostolic Faith Church on South Caroline Street yesterday at a four-hour wake and funeral for six Baltimore children who died in a rowhouse fire early Monday.

With hymns and prayers punctuated by the mother's anguished cries, the "Homegoing" service paid tribute to the six young lives lost overnight: Brandon Allen, 12, Bradley Walker, 10, Joseph Miller, 7, Frederick Ebanks Jr., 5, Ernest Ebanks, 2, and Shakira Walker, 2. The five boys were brothers, and the girl was a cousin.

All were being raised by the boys' mother, Ernestine Walker, and Frederick Ebanks, father of two of the dead boys. The couple both survived the blaze that swept their home in the 600 block of N. Lakewood Ave. shortly after midnight Monday.

The fire's cause is "still under investigation," Fire Department inspector Michael Maybin said yesterday.

A bunch of brightly colored balloons festooned the church's white interior, a symbol of lost youth. The long march of mourners who filed by the small bodies that lay in the six caskets trembled at the sight. Teachers and relatives dried their eyes as they spoke of the promise the children had shown.

In what Bishop Cornelius Showell called the "greatest tribute," a teacher at Paca Elementary School, attended by Bradley, Joseph and Frederick, and by Brandon at an earlier age, said that they "were good children, special to other people. They were never, ever in the office. Everyone loved them, and everyone misses them."

The teacher added that children at Paca were composing poems for their lost friends.

Showell acknowledged the wound the deaths had caused and said in prayer, "Allow us to heal as a community."

In the funeral program, 12-year-old Brandon was remembered as a "football star" and 7-year-old Joseph as a "singer and rapper." A young relative wrote that 10-year-old Bradley was "smart, nice and would try to play with your mind."

One speaker, Patricia Brown, eulogized the children and said, "There's some of us that haven't received that love all of our lives."

Karen Green, a Baptist minister, brought people to their feet when she said, "Even at times like these, we need to praise the Lord. Even in tragedy situations, God can make something good come out of it."

The theme repeated throughout the service was that the grief-stricken could find consolation in faith. Speaking of the "sunlight of his mercy," the bishop told the parents: "He gave them to you. He took them back into his presence."

The bishop and others said in their sermons, "Sleep, little angels." The biblical story referred to by many who spoke was of the suffering of Job, who lost 10 children in a day.

A cousin of the family, Curtis Brogden, 10, pointed to the date that Bradley was born in 1986 and said, "That's the year I was born." He held his mother's hand after viewing the bodies of his cousins, who, he said, did not look like themselves anymore.

After the funeral, six hearses lined up to take the children to burial at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens in Timonium.

But before the mourners left, they sang and clapped to the final song, an old gospel melody called "Everybody Will be Happy Over There."

Survivors include three sisters, three brothers, four grandparents and three great-grandparents.

Pub Date: 3/08/97

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