The soft glow of candles filled a small driveway in Glace Bay, NS, Sunday during a vigil for two teenage girls killed in a house fire.
More than 100 people gathered outside the white two-story home on Brookside Street, where the fire broke out Friday.
Family, friends and neighbors paid tribute to Madison Kelly, 16, and Brea McKenzie, 15, by signing paper lanterns sent to heaven.
On the front lawn there were glass angels, sumptuous teddy bears and bouquets of colorful flowers.
“This is an incredibly sad and tragic moment,” said Dave Sawler, a community pastor and executive director of the Undercurrent Youth Center in Glace Bay and New Waterford, NS.
“This is a time when it’s normal to have so many questions. It’s normal to make sure it’s normal to cry, so that’s what we’re doing here tonight.”
Sawler said that before the fire happened, teens in and around Glace Bay were already struggling with higher levels of stress and anxiety caused by the pandemic.
He said that by putting boundaries in place throughout the province, Sawler said it makes it difficult for people to properly mourn.
“Normally there would be funerals with hundreds and hundreds of people,” he said.
“Having an opportunity for young people and adults to get together is extremely important. I’m aware that there may be more things like this this week.”
Sawler said he had met the girls before and had worked with their friends and family members because “Glace Bay is only that big.”
Asked to offer some advice on how to cope with the loss, Sawler said that right now it’s time to help each other.
“We need to make sure we are there for the person next to us. This is just a time to listen. It’s time to hug,” he said.
Jessica Kelly said it was hard to attend her sister’s guard, but something she had to do.
Kelly’s younger sister Madison (Maddy) Kelly was four years younger and was described as a loving and charismatic teenager.
At the time of her death, Madison Kelly had been living in the home where the fire broke out with her friend.
“The night of the fire, I still remember her saying, ‘I love you, good night, and see you tomorrow,'” Jessica Kelly said.
“Maddy was like my baby. I miss her a lot. She put a smile on everyone’s faces. She meant the world to me.”
As she stood next to a small memorial to the two girls, Ian McKinnon told reporters that he shared many childhood memories with his friend Brea McKenzie, who also died in the fire.
McKenzie loved animals
McKinnon said the couple was born five days apart and often shared birthday parties, but they had begun to lose touch over the past year.
“Knowing she’s gone, it’s awful. It feels weird to know she’s not out doing anything,” he said.
McKenzie was described as a sweet person who loved animals, including dogs, cats and guinea pigs.
“We would always send pictures of our pets to each other,” said Reilly Fitzpatrick, who met McKenzie through mutual friends. “I know she loved her animals very much.”
An online collection has been set up for McKenzie’s mother Laureen McKenzie, who was seriously injured in the fire.
On Sunday, police had no update on the woman’s condition. An investigation into the cause of the fire is ongoing.