It didn’t take long for a memorial to start outside the home on Parkcliffe Avenue where a fire that killed five children started. A memorial of stuffed animals and balloons kept growing all day.
There’s been a citywide response to the tragedy, which has moved many people.
Cheryl Kelly, of Youngstown, dropped off a bear she would put out in her house every Christmas. She hopes America “Amy” Acevedo’s children are watching.
“I pray that they are, and I’m looking up to the heavens and that He gives the mother strength, and I hope that she pulls through,” Kelly said.
As the memorial grew, there were also people who just wanted to drive by and look. Colleen Richardson, also of Youngstown, stopped and said a prayer for the family.
“She probably couldn’t save her children. She probably tried, the mother. That’s why I’m here. Just to kind of ask God to help her through the children’s deaths and stuff,” Richardson said.
There was one person who could relate to the tragedy. Michael Gibbs said his 15-year-old niece had been trapped and lost her life in a fire on Woodland Avenue years ago.
He attached balloons to the memorial.
“Such a tragedy it was to lose loved ones at a time like this, during the holiday season,” Gibbs said.
Each stuffed animal, every candle, each balloon carried a heartfelt thought for the children who died in the fire. Children these people had never met or seen, but knew they were loved.
The community wanted to show them on Monday they were still loved, despite being lost in a tragedy.
Tomika Brooks, of Hubbard, used to work with Acevedo, who had invited to share Thanksgiving with the family.
Acevedo made it out of the house but was injured. Capt. Kurt Wright said she jumped from a second-story window.
“I know she was a great mother. She was a really hard worker. Her kids were amazing — full of life and just beautiful,” Brooks said.
Local leaders also spoke out about the tragic loss of life.
“It is such a devastating loss. Five kids. It seems like every time this time of year something like this happens and we have a loss of life, that just can’t be replaced,” said Sixth Ward Councilwoman Anita Davis. “I am just hoping the mom has family around here that can embrace her and give her the support she needs.”
The eldest child, a 9-year-old girl, went to school at Wilson Elementary.
“The little kids, this is going to impact them,” Davis said. “They are going to need a lot of loving, that’s all I can say. They’ve lost a schoolmate. This is something little kids are not supposed to know about.”
Youngstown City Fire Chief Barry Finley said the toll on firefighters is substantial. He said he is working to provide support for them.
“It’s very hard for us. Firefighters and police officers, all our safety forces. Something like this, we give 110 percent. Things happen the way they happen and it’s just something we have to deal with.
We will have someone for our firefighters to talk to.”