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One Year Later
January 23, 2009 - Joe Gorman
It's not hard to remember where I was a year ago today.
It was cold, windy, wet, snowy and somber as I stood in front of the Stewart Avenue home on the East Side where Carol Crawford, her daughter Jennifer and four of her children were killed in an arson fire, the worst mass murder in Youngstown's history.
The whirwind of activity for the next two weeks following this story made an impression on me that lasts to this day. The overwhelming impression is one of generosity and thankfulness, the generosity of the community reaching out to this family and the city in general.
I think of the police chaplains who gave of themselves without thinking to the survivors of the fire and the police and firefighters who responded to the scene. I think of the firefighters who were there and how they risked their lives when they heard there were still people inside and their disappointment for not being able to save anyone, as well as the first officer who responded and tried to get into the home, but couldn't. There were the donations to help pay for the funeral and the yard of the home was covered with toys and flowers.
It has also made me thankful. Thankful that there are men and women who would think nothing of running into a burning building and risking their lives for someone they do not know. Another thing it has made me thankful for is the family I have now. But that came later. No one thought of these things as they stood outside on the street frozen with water from fire hoses battling the blaze and the shock as people tried to comprehend the tragedy and asked, why?
No one will ever know the answer to that question. Michael Davis, a neighbor, was arrested and tried for the crime and will spend the rest of his life in prison. Prosecutors said the fire was set because of a beef over a stolen cellular phone. Davis didn't take the stand and except for one time during the trial when he cried as the 911 tape was played, he displayed no emotions in public. We will probably never know why he did what he did and if he has any regrets.
The spot where the home was is empty now, razed shortly after the fire. It's like the empty space that is left and still exists a year later despite the kindness of the community and the bravery of the police and firefighters who were there, the emptiness that comes when a grandmother, her mother and four children die for no really good reason.
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