WASHINGTON (AP) -- Hundreds of mourners cried in a Northeast Washington church Monday, recalling a mother who worked two jobs, her young daughter and niece and her grandfather. All perished last week in the city's deadliest fire in more than a decade.
``Their deaths have left a great whole in our lives,'' Mayor Anthony A. Williams wrote in a letter read to mourners who crowded into Randall Memorial Baptist Church.
The Dec. 20 fire was blamed on a space heater. David Ferguson, 69, died after jumping from a second story window. His granddaughter, Joy Hellams, 30, ran inside and helped save an 11-year-old boy, then went back inside for her 11-year-old daughter, Aisha McAllister, and her niece, Daisha Reid, 5. They never made it out.
``She's a hero. She went back to get Daisha,'' said Dale Campbell, Reid's aunt.
Hundreds of mourners filed past four open caskets before the service. Care Bears sat next to the small folded hands of Reid, who was wearing a white dress, and McAllister, dressed in pink and white.
``She was a good student. She loved coming to school,'' said Kathy Thomas, Reid's kindergarten teacher.
The choir from McAllister's middle school sang during the service.
Hellams was remembered as a loving mother and friend. With his arm around their son, Hellams' fiance, Andre McAllister, read a letter to her.
``You'll always be the star in my life,'' McAllister said.
Several firefighters attended the service. Two relatives of the victims work for the fire department and a third is retired. Firefighters said they wanted to show their support for their colleagues.
Firefighters gave Hellams' son a few toys Monday, said Kathryn Friedman, spokeswoman for the District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department. They've also set up a fund for the family.
Editor's Note: Donations can be sent to: 17 Street Memorial Fund, Friendship Fire Association in care of Engine Co. 3, 439 New Jersey Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20001.