A group of about 20 children, teens and adults held candles on Nov. 28 in front of a home in Lewisdale where a house fire resulted in the death of three family members a year ago.
The group said prayers, read scripture passages and sang to commemorate the deaths of Omari Noel, 6, his mother Simone Anne Munroe, 36, and great aunt Janet Assing-Macklin, 61, of the 2400 block of Griffen Street.
The three died of smoke inhalation on Nov. 27, 2011 after they were taken out of their burning home by Prince George’s County firefighters. The fire started due to an overloaded power strip that ignited an electrical fire in the living room, investigators said. The home also did not have a smoke alarm, investigators said.
Alma Assing, 66, Noel’s great aunt and Assing-Macklin’s sister, said she was grateful for the community support.
“From then on to this day they are still with us,” said Assing of Hyattsville. “And it just gives me a chance to see the love in the community and I am so thankful.”
Prince George’s County firefighters, police and Lewisdale Elementary School officials held donation drives last year to raise funds for funeral costs for the three victims and to collect household items and clothes for Merle Munroe, who is also Assing’s sister and the sole survivor of the blaze.
When Assing visited the hospital later, she said she tried to console Merle Munroe, who felt guilty she had not done more to help her family during the blaze.
“There was nothing she could have done,” Assing said. “She tried to go back in and as I told her, ‘I thank you for not going back in, because at least I have one sister left.’”
Merle Munroe currently lives in Trinidad and is taking care of their mother, who recently had a stroke, Assing said.
“It’s been a tough year,” Assing said. “I have had ups and downs.”
Kevin Noel, Omari Noel’s father and Simone Munroe’s finance, who lives in Trinidad as well, said he was made aware of the vigil and was appreciative of all the community had done for the family, noting the donation drives that were held following the incident.
“The love and insights have been very overwhelming,” he said in an email. “I am still coping, but I'm hopeful that while it isn't a topic of grandeur, the lesson was certainly learned in that at the end of the day, love for one another is the ultimate goal we should try to achieve as long as we have breath because unforeseen circumstances can occur at anytime whether we wish it so or not.”
Prince George’s County Fire Chief Marc Bashoor said the deaths were part of 14 that occurred as a result of fires last year in the county, but said this incident was especially tough because a child was a victim.
Bashoor said firefighters were out in the community the next day installing smoke alarms for those who did not have them and educating community members about why they are important.
Eulis Sawney, 39, who lives across the street from the home, said she saw the family members daily and talked to Assing-Macklin often about how Omari Noel was doing in school. She said she remembers him running and playing in the yard often.
“They were just very kind and loving people,” Sawney said, who helped organize the vigil with other neighbors. “They were always smiling. All of them.”
Staff writer Daniel J. Gross contributed to this article.