HALEYVILLE, Ala. (WIAT) — An emotional balloon release was held Thursday morning to remember two children and their mother killed in a house fire in Haleyville last week.
4-year-old Jacob Evans, his 8-year-old sister Annabelle, and their mother, 44-year-old Cara Evans, all died in the fire.
Both children attended Haleyville Elementary School and this week, students returned from winter break.
“It’s been a very tough week. You don’t know what to do. You don’t know what to say,” said Adrienne Curtis, one of Jacob’s teachers.
Bows are on the outside of the school building in memory of the children. Grief counselors were on hand this week to help.
“It’s hard. The students don’t understand. We don’t understand. We know the best we can do is be there for the kids, keep Annabelle’s memory alive,” said Brandi Crumpton, Annabelle’s math and homeroom teacher.
Crumpton said she doesn’t believe she will ever be able to fill the child’s seat that is now empty in the classroom.
“Her hand was always up and she always had an answer and so I miss her eagerness, I miss her love of life,” said Crumpton.
Classmates released red balloons Thursday morning. Red is Annabelle’s favorite color. Other family members, including the surviving father and husband, were on hand for the goodbye.
“We also wanted to provide the family the opportunity to share this with us to help them see personally how much their children will be loved and will continue to be loved and to help support them as well,” said HES Principal Tammy Hatton.
There were plenty of hugs and tears to go around Thursday. The loss is especially difficult for the students.
“It was very hard because we all miss her,” classmate Audrey Phillips continued. “She was warm hearted and she loved all the kids.”
Jacob Evans was still in Pre-K. Teachers said he was always a source of joy.
“Any time he could run he was going to. He was just always so full of life and just a very sweet kid,” said Curtis.
Teachers hope Thursday’s balloon release will help students in the healing process.
“Annabelle was here one day, and we come back from Christmas Break and she is not and I just hope that by telling her bye and letting these balloons go, they will have a little bit of closure,” said Crumpton.
Neighbors have been raising money for the costs and expenses through a local bank and a GoFundMe page.
Fire investigators believe the fire started near a wall mounted gas heater in the living room area.