A year after six people perished in the deadliest fire in Warren's history, their loved ones gathered in Courthouse Square to keep their memories alive.
Linda Dorsey organized the Southwest Park Memorial fundraiser to honor her son, Derek Dorsey, who died in the June 16, 2011, house fire on Lansdowne Boulevard N.W.
"God brought it to me to open up Southwest Park," she said. "Derek always wanted a place on the westside for kids to go."
Tribune Chronicle / Dan Pompili
Linda Dorsey stands in front of the crowd at Courthouse Square on Saturday, as her granddaughter, Makalia Dorsey, 6, reads an essay she wrote about the death of her sister, Miracle Hugley, in a house fire in June 2011.
Also killed were Derek Dorsey's fiancee, Audrea Johnson; their two children, Derek Dorsey Jr., 11, and Ariell Dorsey, 9; and nieces Ja'Niece Hicks of Columbus, 13, and Miracle Hugley, 9, of Ferndale Avenue S.W.
The proceeds from Saturday's event will go toward getting electricity to the site, repouring concrete, adding bleachers and putting in bathroom doors. Dorsey said the city has donated picnic tables.
Dorsey said she and several family members are at the site every day, cleaning and painting.
A plaque also will be placed at the site that reads: "From the citizens of Warren, in loving memory of" the deceased.
They raised money by selling hot dogs, hamburgers, soda and water, as well as gift baskets and jewelry. Dorsey said she expected at least 250 to 300 throughout the course of the afternoon and evening.
After a round of music from Soul Out, an R&B group from Cleveland, Dorsey thanked the crowd and her granddaughter, Makalia Dorsey, 6, read a poem/essay she wrote about losing her sister Miracle.
For Angela Dorsey, Derek's sister, the event was the funeral party he always wanted.
"He told me that when he died, he wanted it to be like a party, with music, and make it feel like New Orleans," she said. The tragic nature of his death, though, precluded such a send off last year.
Angela Dorsey said her mother went to New Orleans last year after the funerals to get away from it all, but didn't know why she chose the destination. Angela said she told Linda that Derek told her to go there.
"We still think about him every day, and we miss them. We miss the kids. And Audrea and I, we were like sisters," she said through tears. "We're just trying now to live out my brother's dream and get a place for kids to play. If the community could come together to help my mom, that would be great."
A cousin, Nigel Taylor, said get-togethers like Saturday's are exactly the kind of thing he misses about his cousins.
"I miss knowing I can see them, even something as small as dropping in to borrow a CD, small stuff like that," he said.
Derek Dorsey's father, Edward Benard said it's hard to believe it's been a year. He remembers the call he received from one of Derek's neighbors the day of the fire.
"She said, 'You need to get here fast. Your son's house is on fire and it doesn't look good,' and by the time I got there they were bringing my son out," he said.
Ariell's 10th birthday was Wednesday. Miracle would have turned 10 on June 1. Linda Dorsey said the family had cake and ice cream and released balloons in their honor. She said the girls liked lip gloss, so they bought some in their memory.
"We miss everything about them," Linda Dorsey said. "The birthdays, the laughing, the jokes, playing with them."