Quiet vigils follow deadly city fire

Father and son remain hospitalized after house blaze

December 08, 2007|By Nick Madigan | Nick Madigan,Sun reporter

The teddy bears, cards and flowers, a shrine to a girl's memory, were spattered by a light rain.

A day after a devastating fire in Roland Park took the life of Abigail Young, an 11-year-old student at the Calvert School, classmates and friends left offerings of grief yesterday at the family's wrecked home as firefighters trudged along the neighborhood's icy sidewalks, knocking on doors and reminding homeowners to check their smoke detectors and fire escape plans.

Silence returned yesterday to Ridgewood Road, where the blackened, boarded-up hulk of the Young family's three-story home stood in stark relief against a light cover of snow.

"We'll miss you, Abby," said a note on pink paper, protected from the elements in a plastic bag outside the low stone wall that borders the Youngs' property. Two little hearts decorated the message. Next to it was a pink knitted toy dog, a pair of teddy bears and a bouquet of pink and yellow roses. Other gifts lay nearby, just a few feet from the charred debris - furniture, clothes and other household items - that firefighters had tossed from windows.

The fire that struck early Thursday landed Abigail's father and brother in critical care at local hospitals.

At Sinai Hospital, where Abigail had been taken after being pulled from the house by firefighters, her brother, Matthew, 16, remained in critical condition yesterday with severe swelling of the brain, a condition prompted by smoke inhalation.

The family's pastor, the Rev. Thomas W. Blair, said that Matthew's blood pressure had dropped somewhat, which he said was not a good sign.

The children's father, Stephen A. Young, 54, a deputy copy desk chief at The Sun who was taken to Maryland Shock Trauma Center, also remained in critical condition yesterday, although he was no longer under the heavy sedation that had kept him from knowing the fate of his daughter.

Young's two brothers, Bill, who lives in Chattanooga, Tenn., and Hank, a Baltimore resident, were with him yesterday morning when he returned to consciousness, Blair said, and they told him what had happened.

"He's well enough to be concerned about his family rather than himself," the pastor said of Young, who suffered smoke inhalation, a broken hip and other injuries in the fire.

Blair said Young's wife, Nancy, who escaped the fire without injury, and other family members were seeking permission to move him from Shock Trauma to Sinai, perhaps today, so he can be closer to his son.

"He's just hanging on," Blair said of Matthew, a 10th-grade cross-country running enthusiast who attends the Park School. In Sinai Hospital's pediatric intensive-care unit, Matthew's mother and his older sisters, Laura and Carrie - who do not live at the family's home - held what amounted to an all-night vigil at his bedside.

"They were holding his hands and caressing his head all night long," said Blair, the pastor of Second Presbyterian Church in Guilford, where he held a prayer service for the Young family on Thursday evening.

In the packed church, which holds more than 500 people, tearful teenage students wearing the emblems of Calvert and Park schools hugged each other under the white lights of Christmas trees. Parents sought to console their sobbing children.

The mourners concluded the service by standing to sing the hymn "Amazing Grace."

On Ridgewood Road, the Young family's two cars, a Volvo station wagon and a Nissan minivan, remained where they had been parked before the fire, undamaged. They bore bumper stickers from Calvert School.

In the Volvo, a small box bore the name "Abby" - a girl's handwriting in black felt-tip.

nick.madigan@baltsun.com

Sun reporters Mike Catalini and Frederick N. Rasmussen contributed to this article.

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