East St. Louis community releases balloons in remembrance of 5 children who died in fire

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EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. – A vigil was held in East St. Louis for the five young brothers and sisters who were killed in an apartment fire one week ago.

As the balloons rise over the vigil, a little bit of hope does too.

Neighbor Randy McCallum doesn’t know the family but felt he had to do something to remember the innocent kids that died.

“I told my wife, we gotta do something to show that our community still cares,” he said.

The fatal fire broke out in the apartment building in East St. Louis in the early morning on Aug. 6. The mother went to pick up another adult from work and upon returning home saw the blaze.

Although she tried to save her kids, all five children sadly died.

“For five kids to tragically die like that, that is a very sad thing,” community member Maurice Mobley said.

Each kid was under the age of 10. 

“About 25 years ago, I had an older sister that has six kids, and they were in a similar fire,” McCallum said, “They were all in the ages in a range from 9-1 years old, and each of them got burned real bad, third-degree burns and everything, but they were able to make it out of the house.”

This experience makes the vigil personal for him.

A balloon with each child’s name was released over the community that continues to make sure they are not forgotten.

“A balloon stands for God take care of these kids, lead them the right way, hope everything that their mother and father are going through that they can redeem, and just look at these balloons as its a gift from God,” he said.

Neighbors gathered together to pray for the kids and the family. They released star and heart balloons in their honor.

“When you throw a balloon in the air with everybody’s name on it, you don’t recognize them for any squalor. I recognize these kids for being here for being alive for such a short time but still understand that we know and we care,” he said.

Dozens of community members stayed for hours, leaning one another during this tragic time.

“We want the people to know that we care and our hearts are with you all,” McCallum said.

“Was it a power issue, was it an electrical issue, something created that fire,” Mobley said.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation by the Illinois state fire marshal and the Illinois state police.

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