Community remembers five children killed in north Minneapolis fire

  • Article by: KELLY SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 1, 2014 - 10:02 PM

More than 200 people attended the emotional, nearly two-hour funeral.

Butterfly wings adorned each of the five little caskets, marking young lives lost far too soon.

Green wings for 18-month-old Gwendolyn. Yellow wings for 3-year-old Troy and 8-year-old Christopher. Pink wings for 4-year-old Fannie, purple for 6-year-old Mary.

“Our hearts are exploding … there are no words to describe how we feel right now,” said Debra Lewis, the children’s aunt.

More than 200 people gathered at Shiloh Temple Church on Saturday to remember the five siblings who died Feb. 14 in an early morning north Minneapolis fire, one of the deadliest in the city’s history. Those in attendance included community leaders, teachers, family and friends, many still devastated by the loss and anxious for answers.

The children’s father, Troy Lewis, 60, escaped the fire out a second-story window and returned to try to rescue his children. He grabbed two of them before he was overcome by smoke.

The two girls, 9-year-old Shaca and 5-year-old Electra, remain hospitalized, though their father said Saturday that they’re improving — evidenced, he joked, by Shaca wanting something from McDonald’s and Electra asking for M&Ms.

The girls, though, are still distraught over the deaths of their siblings, he said.

“I was sending my children home, to their mother, to a better place,” he said after the funeral.

The family moved to Minneapolis in 2006 and lived in a North Side duplex. Lewis’ sister, Debra, said the household was like that of any big family — bustling with kids arguing over whether to watch “SpongeBob” or “The Wiggles” while their mother helped the older children with homework.

Then last fall, their mother and Lewis’ longtime partner, Kim Davis, 31, died, leaving the family reeling. And now this, Debra Lewis said, choking up.

Troy Jr., she said, was the family’s practical joker while baby Gwendolyn was the free spirit, showering those she loved with big hugs and kisses. Christopher had cute dimples while Mary had her mother’s smile, and Fannie, her grandmother’s elegance.

“You were there that morning and we know you tried [to save them],” she told her brother at the funeral. “Now we have to stand fast.”

‘It’s not over’

Investigators haven’t determined the cause of the Valentine’s Day fire, but have said a space heater had been running for days and was located where the fire appears to have started. The exact source of the fire was difficult to determine because so much of the apartment was destroyed. A fire report said smoke detectors were present, but it’s unclear if they worked when the fire broke out.

Troy Lewis, though, blames his landlord for not providing sufficient heat.

The building had passed a city inspection and the landlord has said that no complaints were received from Lewis.

Lewis plans a legal fight as he looks for a new place to live.

  • related content

  • Funerals for the five Lewis siblings killed in the Valentine's Day duplex fire in North Minneapolis. The funeral was held at the Shiloh Temple Church, at 1201 W. Broadway.

  • Funerals for the five Lewis siblings killed in the Valentine's Day duplex fire in North Minneapolis. The funeral was held at the Shiloh Temple Church, at 1201 W. Broadway.

  • “I was sending my children home, to their mother, to a better place,” said Troy Lewis, the children’s father. The funeral for the five siblings was held Saturday at the Shiloh Temple Church.

  • Teachers and friends comforted each other as they filed past the caskets before the funeral. The funeral was nearly two hours long and ended with family hugging and holding each other up while embracing the caskets.

  • Leanin gon the casket of 18-month-old Gwendolyn Lewis were pictures and butterfly wings ] (KYNDELL HARKNESS/STAR TRIBUNE) kyndell.harkness@startribune.com During the funeral for the five Lewis children who died in a fire on Valentine's Day at Shiloh Temple Church in Minneapolis Saturday, March 1 2014.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

Advertisement
Golden Gavel by Star Tribune

Countdown to great deals

Bid Sept. 21-29

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Do you support Wednesday's decision to sideline Adrian Peterson again?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close