Victims of fatal fire remembered


Children tie new balloons to the memorial at the site of last year's deadly fire during Sunday's commemorative event. 

Sunday was a bittersweet day for the family, friends and neighbors of those impacted by the fatal fire that struck a Newnan neighborhood on April 27, 2013, and killed five, including four young girls.

Two picnics were held Sunday, one in the Westgate neighborhood – doors down from the now vacant lot at 2 Midland Park Lane – and another at Newnan’s First Avenue Park.

LaToya Brown and Alexis Newsome, mother and sister of Messi’ah White, who was one of the children killed, were at the Newnan Fire Department headquarters Sunday to express their appreciation to the firefighters who responded to the fire last spring.

Brown and Newsom wore custom jackets adorned with pictures of White and Minnie Mouse, a cartoon favorite of the child.

Brown presented Battalion Chief Stephen Brown with a plaque thanking the firefighters for their efforts.

“We never look for recognition, but this is nice. This means a lot,” Stephen Brown said. “These guys had a really, really tough time with that. Every call is tough, but that one was the worst,” he said. “It’s probably the worst in the history of this fire department.”

Later, at First Avenue Park, the fire department had a stock of smoke detectors to give away. Stephen Brown said that fire safety education is a very high priority, “so we don’t ever have this happen again.”

At Westgate, the Renewed Mind Praise Ministries performed praise dances, and balloons were released. Youngsters enjoyed a bounce house and inflatable slide and there was food and fellowship.

At all the events, there were the faces of the fire victims on a wide array of custom shirts.

Several new balloons were tied to the crosses that have stood on Midland Park Lane since the fire that killed 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.

“I’m glad they're keeping her in their minds,” Dwight McCrary said of his daughter, Lola. “She was a good person. She died for a reason. She was very loving and I’m proud of her.”

At First Avenue Park, a meal was hosted by the family and friends of MaKinzie Florence. Firefighters and police attended. There was a prayer, and then after a fire engine siren sounded, three balloons, for McCrary and her daughters, were released from the LaGrange Street bridge. Then, Shannon Arnold, great-aunt of MaKinzie Florence, and Sgt. Chad Wood of the NPD walked balloons down to LaToya Brown and Florence's mother, Erika, so that the mothers could release the balloons in memory of their daughters.

“It was very emotional but it was nice,” Arnold said.

“It was very special with our family and friends, and the firefighters and police that came,” Florence said.

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