City officials this weekend dedicated a portion of Jefferson Street in East Baltimore to honor Troy Douglas — an 8-year-old boy who was killed following a gas explosion in February.
His family spent Sunday afternoon singing "Happy Birthday" at his graveside at King Memorial Park. He would have been 9.
"He was a regular, 8-year-old kid," his mother, Shanika Brown, said. "His life got taken from him. It wasn't his fault."
Brown and Troy's father, also named Troy Douglas, are separated, but they and a dozen other relatives gathered at Brown's McElderry Park home after visiting the cemetery. Troy's siblings and cousins ate snowballs on the porch of the Potomac Street rowhouse. They were wearing T-shirts, buttons and denim jackets bearing Troy's face.
His grandmother reminisced about his love of basketball and his ferocious appetite. The words "You made it in..." were written in blue icing on a vanilla birthday cake beneath his name. A deflated "RIP Troy" helium balloon was taped flat to the living room wall next to a line of his school pictures and a framed letter of condolence from the Miami Heat, his favorite team. On a table with the cake, two scrapbooks held more photographs of Troy and newspaper clippings about the building collapse that killed him.
The third-grader was walking by a building at the corner of Jefferson and Lakewood Avenue on his way home from William Paca Elementary School on Feb. 19 when an explosion caused part of the building to come down on him.
The April and May edition of the McElderry Park Star, a neighborhood newsletter, featured a full front-page photo and obituary.
"His name will live forever in McElderry Park and surrounding communities," it said — signed, "Your East Baltimore Family."
City officials unveiled the ceremonial red sign dubbing Jefferson Street at North Lakewood Avenue "Troy Douglas Way" in an outdoor ceremony Saturday night.
Community members can apply for ceremonial street signs through the city's Department of General Services, according to Caron Brace, a spokeswoman for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake. A number of agencies and the Mayor's Office of Neighborhood and Constituent Services then review the applications, she said.
Members of Troy's family said they were touched the city named the street in honor of the child.
"We appreciate all the love and support," his father said. "There's a lot of it coming in — a lot of sympathy cards and phone calls. I've seen people I ain't seen since I was a child."
For his mother, who teared up as she spoke, it made Troy's ninth birthday "special and sad at the same time."
Baltimore Sun editor Tim Swift contributed to this article.
twitter.com/cmcampbell6Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun