From anonymous letters to firefighters volunteering time to how the community is picking up the pieces after devastating house fire

NOW: From anonymous letters to firefighters volunteering time to how the community is picking up the pieces after devastating house fire

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The passing of the sixth and only surviving sibling of the Laporte Avenue house fire, 11-year-old Angel Smith, has left the community in shambles.

“There was some hope in a sense with her still being alive at the time,” says Diona Jones, a pastor and friend of the Smith family.

Thursday night, Jones took a call from the Smith family asking for her help in raising prayers for Angel Smith, hoping her condition would improve overnight before she had to be taken off life support the next morning. 

Jones was heartbroken to pass along the news of Angel’s death Friday on behalf of the Smith family. 

She’s been an integral part of the kids’ lives since they moved to South Bend in October. 

“When I found out that their father was raising six small children and he’s a seasoned father, I’m like ‘Oh, I don’t need to ask him if he needs help, I know there’s room for some additional help,’” Jones recalls.

Jones first met 10-year-old Demetris Smith when he became a student in her fifth-grade class at Madison STEAM Academy. 

She says the loss of Demetris and nine-year-old Davida, who also attended the school, has been tough on students. 

However, they also have seen a positive light from it; other than decorating the siblings' lockers and cubbies with hand drawn pictures and notes, she says it’s opened a conversation about being a good friend while you have the time. 

“I found an anonymous letter on his locker that said, ‘Sorry that I bullied you and didn’t have a chance to say I'm sorry,’” Jones shares.

Responding firefighters that tried to save their lives the night of the fire are also seeing support. 

On Friday, the Mishawaka Fire Department sent 11 firefighters over to South Bend stations to cover for them so they could attend a critical incident stress debriefing and counseling. 

“When an incident happens, things happen so fast, and they’re so focused on their work and with the adrenaline, but I think once they get back to the station and they start realizing the actual incident, what had happened,” explains Captain Darron Hess with the Mishawaka Fire Department. “So today was just good to have that for those members so they can talk to other colleagues that were there, other colleagues in support.” 

In a tragedy that’s struck the entire community, Jones says the best thing to do is to keep spreading the prayers and support. 

“Everybody is praying for strength, comfort, clarity, support, and those things really matter,” Jones says. “Releasing those words of affirmation into the atmosphere, the energy is received, and it reaches where it needs to go.”  

The family invites the community to celebrate the lives of the Smith six; it's happening this Sunday at 2pm in front of the home on 222 Laporte Avenue in South Bend.  

They’re asking people to wear pink, blue, and white for the girls and boys that are now all angels.

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