As blue balloons drifted Saturday night into the warm February sky above Southeast Baltimore, family members and friends of 8-year-old Troy Douglas wrapped their arms around each other in grief.
Were "Li'l Troy" still alive, he probably would have been at the playground or the basketball court near the small courtyard in Perkins Homes where the memorial was held in his honor.
Instead, his father mourned in a T-shirt bearing his image, reading, "I Love You Son. Play in Peace."
"I'm trying to come to terms," said his father, also named Troy Douglas. "I just want to know what happened."
A spokesman for the Baltimore Fire Department said Saturday that the investigation is ongoing.
On Wednesday, little Troy — who family remembered as a happy kid who loved playing outside with his friends — was killed as he walked home from William Paca Elementary School, when a rowhouse burst into flames and partially collapsed.
Witnesses in the area reported hearing an explosion and seeing the wall of the rowhouse's kitchen blow out, though the Fire Department has not confirmed an explosion. Troy's body was found among the rubble. Two adults in the home and another child outside were also injured.
Troy's father and mother, Shanika Brown, were comforted Saturday night by about 100 others — including kids of all ages, Troy's siblings and some cousins — who surrounded a table with a white tablecloth, candles and pictures of Troy. The family held the service in the Perkins Homes courtyard because that is where Troy partly grew up, splitting his time at his father's home there and his mother's home closer to the scene of the fire.
"I just thought I'd bring it to where the love is," his father said. The street where the fire occurred was still blocked off, he said, so he decided on the courtyard.
"Up there he had a lot of friends — everyone loved him," his father said. "When he came down here to stay with me, it was the same."
So many questions remain, he said. So, too, do the memories.
Family and friends told stories of Troy playing basketball and cutting up, dancing and rapping. One cousin, Ernest Sims, who'd also served as Troy's barber, said Troy had recently asked for a mohawk.
Another cousin, Latrice Douglas, wept as she recalled watching Troy grow up.
"I'm going to miss my little cousin from the bottom of my heart," she said. "But I know he's in a better place, where he'll be able to do whatever he wants, eat all the food he wants, and feel no pain."
"He might be gone physically," she said, "but spiritually he will always be with us. Always."
Troy's favorite color, blue, dotted the crowd, in T-shirts in his honor, in the candles his loved ones held and on the balloons.
As they rose into the sky, concluding the short service, many idled in place or hugged each other as Troy's mother walked off, crying in the arms of a family member.
A nearby picture of her son, dressed in a blue baseball cap and blue sweater and fitted with angel wings, read "Fly in Peace."
A memorial fund has been created for Troy, and donations can be made at http://www.gofundme.com/70pu44.
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