POTTSVILLE — It is a night that still haunts the Bunker Hill neighborhood in Pottsville.
Mother’s Day 2013, just before midnight, a fire on Pierce Street killed six family members.
Kristina Thomas, her brother-in-law Eric Brown, and his four children Elijah, 2, Emily, 3, Jerimiah, 7, and Joy, 8 all perished in the flames.
Their mother, Kelly Brown, was across the street doing laundry.
“She just seemed like a really nice person, and it is just so tragic what happened. People say that the passage of time helps, but I really don’t know how you get over something like that,” Michael Sando said.
A year has passed. Mother’s Day has come again. All that remains of the home is a pile of rubble.
However, just down the street, a memorial to the Brown children now sits in the Bunker Hill playground, with colorful benches and a special stone for each brother and sister.
As kids enjoy the spring sunshine, adults take a moment to pay their respects.
“I keep them in my prayers all the time, especially after seeing the memorial. It’s just a reminder that life is fleeting,” said Nathan Smith.
Smith said that, since the fire, he goes to church every week.
As he played with his girlfriend and her 3-year-old daughter, the memorial nearby reminds him of what matters most.
“Everyone should feel comfortable here. Yes, something bad happened, but with the memorial, you can feel the spirit.”
Jane Kruse lives right next door and helps care for the memorial. She said the park was always the heart of the neighborhood. Now, it means even more.
“The benches are colorful. I think they wanted a positive memory of the children, yet a place that parents can come for a little solace if they need to.”