Family mourns 2 children who died in rowhouse fire

Teacher purchased the home in October

February 24, 2002|By Kate Shatzkin | Kate Shatzkin,SUN STAFF

It was just after 9 a.m. yesterday when Wanda Golder laid the stuffed polar bear on the marble steps of the stately, broken rowhouse across from Lafayette Square, where 11 hours before a fire had killed two children.

The bear had two balloons attached to its neck. One of them read: "God has two more angels."

Golder, who lives in the neighborhood, hadn't known Chike Adams, 8, or his sister, 5-year-old Sakile. But she had heard the sirens the night before, and seen the flames that took their lives.

She was about to celebrate the first birthdays of her twin granddaughters. "I just can't do that," Golder said, her voice breaking, "until I do something here."

Inside, Matinde "Prince" Evans, the grandfather of the children who died, was looking for a broom to sweep broken glass from the steps.

Their mother's fiance, Harold Bias of New York City, was trying to come to terms with the deaths of the children he called "my heart."

The blaze at the ornate house with the high ceilings, in the 1100 block of W. Lafayette Ave., was reported about 10:20 p.m. Friday. It apparently started between the third-floor ceiling and the roof.

After putting her children to bed on the third floor, Twana Adams had fallen asleep in the first-floor living room, Evans said. She was awakened by someone who pounded at her door to alert her to the fire and pulled her out. Evans said his daughter was restrained from going back into the house for her children. She was not injured.

By the time firefighters arrived, smoke was pouring from the windows. Sakile died at the scene. Her brother was taken to Maryland Shock Trauma Center and died a short time later.

Fire Department spokesman Lt. Michael M. Maybin said yesterday that the cause of the fire had not been determined. Damage to the home was estimated at $45,000.

Bias, 44, said Adams had recently moved with her children from New York City to Washington, where she taught school. She searched with him for a house in Baltimore, where her parents live.

After looking at a number of houses, they fell in love with the unusual features of the Lafayette Avenue property - the foyer with decorated walls and the living room with marble fireplaces and a large bay window. Adams wanted one day to take foster children into the home to live with her own, said her mother, Joanne Evans.

Adams purchased the house in October, and the family commuted to Washington daily by train - Adams, 39, to her teaching job, and the children to the African-centered school they attended. Bias planned to marry her soon and move to the house from New York.

"It was our dream home," Bias said.

Yesterday, water dripped through a first-floor ceiling elaborately adorned with pictures of flowers and fountains, onto the hardwood floor below. The foyer was littered with shoes and coats belonging to the children, along with Sakile's composition book.

Sakile loved to play with dolls, and brought them with her everywhere. Her grandmother described her as sweet, full of mischief and people-loving, while Chike, a strict vegetarian, was the "big brother, macho loner type."

Said Bias: "He'd tell you things about red meat that a normal child wouldn't tell you."

"I have never seen a woman love her kids the way [Adams] did," Bias said. "That was her whole life, making sure they got a great education, that they knew their culture.

"I'm in disbelief that they're gone."

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