`God does not make mistakes'

A fire victim, 3, is laid to rest as another dies in a hospital, family says

May 31, 2007|By Annie Linskey | Annie Linskey,SUN REPORTER

The 3-year-old liked things with wheels - he raced around on a tiny dirt bike and pretended to drive when he got into a car.

His name was Nijuan L. Thomas Jr., and he was set to begin Head Start in September, but last week he was killed in one of the city's deadliest fires.

The funeral was held yesterday, and if Nijuan could have seen the procession, he might have smiled at all the wheels. There were all kinds of cars - filled with several hundred of family and friends. There were many police motorcycles blocking roadways. And there was a bus, to take those who were without transportation to the cemetery.

Nijuan was the youngest person to die in the fire, which claimed the lives of seven and injured six. The most recent victim, Dominic Thomas, died yesterday at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, according to Keith Fleming, a family member. The hospital could not confirm the death.

The Fire Department has not released the cause of the fire, though a person close to the investigation told The Sun that a preliminary investigation showed that it was started by a person smoking on a couch in the front room downstairs.

Yesterday's funeral was the second in as many days for the victims' friends and family members. On Tuesday, MarQuis D. Ellis, 7, was buried. A service for the remaining family members is expected in coming days, said Victor C. March, executive vice president of March Funeral Homes. The funeral home has donated its services for all of the victims.

The mourners yesterday filled every pew in the March Funeral Home West, at 4300 Wabash Ave. There were so many mourners that there was a shortage of funeral programs, so funeral home staff members used a copying machine to make more. During the service, some mourners stood against the walls, and others spilled into the hall.

"God does not make mistakes," said the Rev. Timothy Loftin, a pastor. In time, he promised, God would help the family understand.

Rahim Abdul, an imam who was close to the family, said: "God did not do this, he permitted it." He added: "God is a good God." Abdul said he played with Nijuan two days before his death.

Like others, Abdul had a larger message: "Everyone of us can dig into our pockets and make sure children have what they need."

There were many toddlers among the mourners. Abdul addressed their parents: "Guide these children so that they grow up to be lawyers and doctors and teachers and builders. You should be able to leave your children in better shape than you."

Fire Chief William J. Goodwin Jr. attended the service on behalf of Mayor Sheila Dixon. He sat in the front and spoke briefly, reading a letter that he said the mayor wrote: "I encourage you not to think about what could have been," he said. "But to celebrate what was."

Afterward Nijuan's uncles put a tiny white casket into a light brown hearse, and mourners followed it to King Memorial Park, where all of the fire victims will be buried near each other.

Family members gathered under a tent. A woman released nine white doves. And a man lay down and hugged the boy's tiny casket.

Some of the fire victims were still in the hospital yesterday. Oneika Ellis, 27, was in good condition at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center and Deneen Thomas, 43, was also there, but listed in critical condition, according to hospital spokesman Mike Neely.

Amira Williams, 3, was in critical condition at Johns Hopkins Children's Center, according to spokeswoman Kim Hoppe.


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