The Magnolia Fire Co.'s Santa Run on Wednesday night culminated with a visit to London Village and the Juanita Drive fire scene from last week to offer a remembrance for Andromeda "Andy" Brown, the little girl killed by a fire, and her grandmother, Peggy Klinger, who later succumbed to her injuries.
The Magnolia and Camden-Wyoming fire companies responded to the Dec. 12 blaze that killed Brown, 11, who was a sixth grader at F. Niel Postlethwait Middle School, and Klinger, 56, Delaware Office of the Fire Marshal said. The fire also injured a 2-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy.
Magnolia Fire Co. President Earle Dempsey and Vice President/Second Assistant Chief Charles "Buck" Dougherty led a moment of silence surrounded by several firefighters, members of the community and Santa Claus.
"Remove your helmets, please. Remove your hats, please," Dougherty said. "A moment of silence."
"Folks, we just ask you to keep the family in your thoughts and prayers throughout what is going to be a difficult holiday season," Dempsey said after a moment had passed. "The Magnolia Fire Co. has opened its hall to them Friday evening [at 5 p.m.] so they can have a fundraiser to help with expenses. We'd like to wish you all a Merry Christmas."
Dempsey and Dougherty were among the first firefighters who arrived at the scene.
"The worst thing is to know somebody is in there and you have to get them out," Dougherty said. "And there were children. Two of my children (Jaden and Jordan) are here tonight helping."
Magnolia Fire Co. made it a point to make the Klinger home its last stop for its traditional Santa Run this year, Dempsey said.
"For it to be this time of year and for us to come by every neighborhood in our community, bringing Santa out, it just didn't seem appropriate to treat it as normal coming down Juanita Drive seven days later," he said. "So, in our own way, we thought we would stop and pay tribute."
Several family and friends were present, including Peggy's daughter and Andy's aunt, Helen Klinger, who lives in London Village.
"I think the Magnolia Fire Company has gone above and beyond to help with this tragedy and I appreciate them," Klinger said.
Among those with Klinger was Joshua Maine, the 14-year-old treated and released from Bayhealth-Kent General Hospital after the fire. He is the grandson of Peggy Klinger, Helen Klinger said. Klinger also said the 2-year-old girl injured in the fire, Reniya Miller, had her breathing tubes removed at Crozer Burn Center Tuesday and was doing well enough to be home in time for Christmas.
During this difficult time, Klinger said the Magnolia Fire Co.'s gesture would definitely help ease the pain of her family's loss as Christmas approached.
Page 2 of 2 - "The spirit of Christmas is still there; people still have it," Klinger said. "Magnolia Fire Company is not commercialized. That's what I believe. They have the true spirit of caring and giving."
After Santa Claus helped put up a wreath near the fire damaged home, small children and their parents came up to greet Kris Kringle, as per tradition for a Santa Run. They included Sheila Shindle and her sons Sean, 4, and Martin, 6, and Katrina Murphy, with her daughter, Mackenzie Boyles, 7, and son Andrew Van Osdol, 9.
"It was nice," Shindle said of the tribute. "I really didn't know the family but it hurt me because I have a 7-month-old son as well."
Next-door neighbor Heather Walker brought her 18-month-old daughter, Ayriana, out to see Santa and the tribute to Brown's family. Walker said her daughter used to play with Andy and Reniya Miller, the 2-year-old girl.
"My daughter used to run over anytime Andy and Reniya were outside," Walker said. "It's such a shame. I'm so glad they're doing this," she said of the tribute. "She would have loved it. She wouldn't know what to do with herself."