Overcome by a roaring fire in her Roland Park home, an 11-year-old girl died at Sinai Hospital yesterday after being pulled from the flames by Baltimore firefighters, while her 16-year-old brother clung to life in the same medical center.
Their father, Stephen A. Young, a deputy copy desk chief at The Sun, was found outside the front door. Choking, he managed to tell firefighters that his children were trapped inside, a city Fire Department spokesman said.
Young was rushed to Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where he was in critical condition and stable last night, recovering from a broken hip and suffering from smoke inhalation.
His wife, Nancy, an attorney with the Maryland attorney general's office, escaped the fire, which broke out shortly after 4 a.m. on Ridgewood Road, by scrambling out a third-floor window onto a porch roof, where firefighters pulled her to safety. She was not injured.
Firefighters had not determined a cause last night.
The girl, Abigail, who died at Sinai Hospital, was a sixth-grader at Calvert School in North Baltimore. Her brother, Matthew, a 10th-grader at Park School in Brooklandville, was in critical condition at Sinai with inflammation of the brain, according to a hospital spokeswoman and the Youngs' pastor.
Their mother "is as beside herself as any human being can be right now," said the Rev. Thomas W. Blair, pastor of Second Presbyterian Church, who was helping family members cope with the tragedy and held a packed prayer service last night.
"She just let go of one child and is hanging on for dear life to the other one," Blair said. The children's father was sedated yesterday and knew nothing of the death of his daughter, Blair said, adding, "This is the trick now - how to let him know."
During the prayer service, people pinned letters and written prayers for the family to a banner at the front of the church. Afterward, two of Abigail's basketball teammates, Maclean Liotta and Madi Shutt, remembered how she loved to tell jokes and watch The Simpsons. Their coach told the team at the last practice that she would be the leading scorer this season, they said.
Lucy Cardwell works with Nancy Young at the attorney general's office. Their children knew each other through school and through musical activities, she said after the service.
"It's just horrible," Cardwell said. "I wish that thoughts could make a difference."
The Youngs' two other daughters, Laura, a teacher in Brooklyn, N.Y., who graduated in May from her father's alma mater, Yale University, and Caroline, a freshman at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va., quickly took trains to Baltimore yesterday afternoon.
At Calvert School, which all four of the Youngs' children attended, teachers and staff members struggled to come to terms with the girl's death.
"We are profoundly saddened by the loss of Abby," Andy Martire, the headmaster, said in a statement. "She was a loving, bright and vital member of our sixth-grade class. She will be greatly missed, and she will be greatly remembered."
At Park School, a counseling team met with students throughout the day after parents of its 875 students were alerted to the morning's events via an e-mail from the head of the school, Michael Eanes. He told them that Matthew had been "gravely injured in a fire" that his younger sister "did not survive."
In an e-mail to The Sun, Eanes wrote that although Matthew has been at Park only about a year, he is "actively involved in the academic and athletic life of the school" as a member of the lacrosse and cross-country teams, as a reporter for the school newspaper and in other endeavors.
"All Steve's kids are just adorable," Christine Stutz, who worked with Young on the copy desk of The Carroll County Times in the 1990s, said after hearing the news. "They're just perfect - very well-mannered and polite."
Stutz, who is director of communications for the National Kidney Foundation of Maryland, said Young had taken the nighttime copy-editing job at the Carroll County paper because it meant that he could be home with his children during the day.
"The whole Baltimore Sun family is shocked and saddened by this tragedy that has struck our friend and colleague," Sun publisher Timothy E. Ryan said in a statement.
"Steve's loss is a painful reminder that the heartbreaking stories we cover each day happen to people just like us - that something like this can happen at any time to any of us, or the person we sit next to every day at the office."
Young, who has worked at The Sun for nine years, began his career as a reporter in Torrington, Conn., in 1976, after earning a Master of Arts degree from the Johns Hopkins University, and later worked for newspapers in California. He is the son of a retired federal judge, Joseph H. Young.