Hundreds pray for arson victims

The candlelight vigil took place at the site of the fire.



THE SCENE OF A TRAGEDY was transformed Sunday by hundreds of candlelit faces and the sound of hymns.

The setting of the fatal Youngstown fire that claimed six members of the Crawford family became a sounding board for prayer and a place for remembrance as supporters from around the community gathered to pay their respects.

“In some ways this tragedy touched all of our hearts,” said Louis Muhammad. “Youngstown needs a change.

“This family can serve as a marker that we can do better in the future.”

A member of the Nation of Islam, Muhammad was one of several religious and community leaders to address the crowd that gathered before the fire-singed Stewart Avenue home.

Grown men cried and children carried toys and flowers to add to a growing monument to the victims, covering the lawn.

“It’s such a tragic loss,” said Ernest Walker, pastor of the Ebenezer Life Center. “We’ll never be able to see these young people reach their full potential.

“We don’t know what these lives would be or how they would touch each and every one of us.”

Distributing candles among the crowd was Marie Cottl, 20, who remembers Jennifer Crawford as a devoted mother and a caring friend.

“It’s a tragedy that this had to happen to bring the community together, but God has his way,” she said. “Smart, intelligent, beautiful kids, they was growing up to young ladies.”

Northside resident Terri Davis, 56, said she never met the Crawfords but was nonetheless touched by their story.

“I’m a mother and a grandmother and this could have happened to any family,” said Davis, who is no relation to the arson suspect, 18-year-old Michael Davis.

The deaths of six strangers also touched Rudy Stephens, a member of Christian Revival Discipleship Center. Through the bitter cold, he and fellow church members held a handmade sign that declared: “Need prayer?”

“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” he said.

After the ceremony, the crowd was invited to a service at East High School.

But not before Monica Phillips paid one final tribute to the lives cut short.

A hush fell over the crowd while she read the names of the victims: Carol Crawford, 46, Jennifer Crawford, 23, Ranaisha Crawford, 8, Jeannine Crawford, 5, Aleisha Crawford, 3, Brandon Crawford, 2.

Michael Davis, of Bennington Avenue is charged with six counts of aggravated murder in connection with arson at the Crawford home.

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