Fatal fire: One year later

by Sarah Fay Campbell


One year ago today, fire raged through a family’s home in the Westgate neighborhood, taking the lives of five people – including four young girls.

Friends and family will commemorate the loss with a public balloon release and two cookout gatherings.

The first cookout will begin at 2:30 p.m. in Westgate, and another will follow at First Avenue Park at 4 p.m., when the balloons will be released.

The exact cause of the fire at 2 Midland Park Lane in Newnan was never determined. It was originally thought to have begun in the circuit breaker panel inside the home, but fire investigators later ruled that out.

Killed that Saturday morning were Alonna “Lola” McCrary, 28, her daughters Eriel McCrary, 5, and Nikkiah White, 2, and their sisters Messi’ah White, 3, and MaKinzie Florence, 1.

McCrary’s daughter Nautica “Molly” McCrary, then 11, was the sole survivor of the fire.

Molly now lives with her paternal grandmother and her father, said Lola’s mother, Kathis Bennett.

McCrary has two other daughters, Erica, 7, and Destiny, 11.

“They’re doing well. They have some good days and some bad days,” Bennett said. “Eriel’s birthday was last week. We went to the cemetery and ate and spent time together,” she said.

Lola’s sister, Erica McCrary, said they try to keep the three girls busy.

“It affects Nautica more, because she was actually in the home and has to deal with those memories,” Erica said.

“I still feel empty sometimes,” said LaToya Brown, mother of Messi’ah White. “It’s hard missing her, it’s like I can’t get up. I’m so used to her being with me. I fight it every day. I try to keep smiling. I try to be strong.”

Brown explained how her daughter’s absence affects her, particularly in the home they shared.

“At home at night is when it really gets to me, when I’m at home, and I’m used to her calling my name or her sister wanting to play with her,” said Brown, whose daughter Alexis is 9.

“We’re making it,” Brown added. “I’m leaning more on God. He’s helping me out more and more.”

After the fire, Brown began attending City of Zion Deliverance Tabernacle.

“At first I was lost. It gave me hope, and it’s helping me to lean more to God,” she said. “The more I pray, the more I lean to God, the more he gives me strength. He lifted me up.”

“It’s still very hard to deal with,” said Shannon Arnold, great aunt of MaKinzie Florence. The family has become emotional as the anniversary has grown closer.

MaKinzie's family is hosting the First Avenue event as a ges- ture of thanks to everyone, not only the police and firefighters who helped, but many others, including Roscoe Jenkins Funeral Home, United Bank and First United Methodist Church of Newnan for the use of the church for MaKinzie’s funeral.

“We’re going to be thanking a lot of people who gave and showed their love,” Arnold said.

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