Community mourns deaths of girls killed by fallen tree Wakes, funeral services set for today, tomorrow

March 09, 1997|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

NEW YORK -- A community in pain came together yesterday morning at a church in St. Albans, Queens, seeking comfort and, through prayer, answers to seemingly unanswerable questions.

"Why, O God, did you take them?" the Rev. Lois Stewart said, as about 100 members of the Allen African Methodist Episcopal Church mourned the deaths of four girls who attended Allen Christian School, the pre-kindergarten- through- eighth-grade school that is linked to the church.

The girls -- sisters Kimberly, 10, and Kristin Washington, 12; Kia Satterfield, 10; and Olivia Warren, 10 -- were crushed by an old, decaying tree that was uprooted by heavy winds Thursday and fell on top of the van that was taking the girls to school. Six others in the van, including four children, were injured but not seriously.

Stewart added, "We don't know why some are taken and why some are left, but we thank you for those who are left, O Lord."

Camille Johnson, a counselor at the school, said she was grateful for prayer at the service, which others agreed was necessary to allow the community to mourn together. Johnson, 31, said she had lost count of how many tears she had dried, and how many hugs she had given and received. "I, too, need comforting," she said. "I need to replenish myself. As you pour out to others, you have to fill up, too. I have to be able to give of myself again to my children."

The community's mourning will continue in the next few days at services for the girls who died.

Today there is to be a wake and funeral service for the Washington sisters. Tomorrow morning, Olivia Warren will be buried after a service at the Allen African Methodist Episcopal Church, the same church where she was baptized. Later tomorrow, there will be a wake and funeral service for Kia Satterfield.

Some parents said they plan to take their children to all of the services.

Pub Date: 3/09/97

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