Temple hosts funeral for the 12 lost in tragic Fairmount fire
The ceremony held at the Liacouras Center on the morning of Martin Luther King Jr. Day was attended by more than 200 people.
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Since 1986, the third Monday of January has been reserved as a day of service and remembrance for Martin Luther King Jr.
This year in Philadelphia, that service and remembrance extended to the 12 people lost in the tragic Fairmount fire on Jan. 5, 2022.
It took the form of a massive funeral service that first graced the rain-slicked streets of North Philadelphia before settling down for three hours bible verses, eulogies, music and more at Temple’s Liacouras Center on Jan. 17, 2022.
“We come remembering Rose, Quentien, Destiny, Dekwan, J’Kwon, Taniesha, Tiffany, Virginia, Shaniece, Natasha, Janiyah, Quinsha,” said Rev. Dr. Alyn E. Waller of Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church to kick off the ceremony.
Of the 12 that died in the fire, which engulfed a three-story duplex, nine were children. The names of more victims were released last week along with the cause of the fire — a Christmas tree going up in flames on the second floor.
All the victims who died were on the third floor when the fire occurred.
The adults who died were three sisters — Rosalee McDonald, Virginia Thomas, and Quinsha White. The other nine were their children, Quintien Tate-McDonald, Destiny McDonald, Dekwan Robinson, J’Kwon Robinson, Taniesha Robinson, Tiffany Robinson. Official ages for the children were never released.
In continuing his own remembrance of the victims, Waller also spoke about how no one gathered really “know what to do with a funeral with 12 people.”
“We’re in a space of grief and pain we wish on no one else,” said Waller.
More than 200 family and friends of the victims gathered in the arena to share their stories.
One was Mark Vivitsky, principal of nearby Bache-Martin Elementary School, where four of the children who died went to school in the past. He told a story that showcased the closeness of the family, when 11-year-old Quinsha White once came to his office on behalf of Quientien Tate-McDonald.
“We let Quinsha take the lead. No nerves. She had no nerves. Here she is in my office, she’s holding her own. She was serious, compassionate,” Vivitsky was quoted as saying by WHYY News. “From a very early age, their actions proved that they knew they were responsible for one another.”
Bache-Martin Elementary held its own vigil for the victims the day after the tragedy, and released balloons in their honor. The school also created a new mutual aid program to help the families and fund efforts to combat further inequity among students and families.
The mutual aid program is one of a number of aid efforts started in the aftermath of the fire that are still ongoing.