Katie Malone and her husband, Bill, worked opposite schedules so their nine children had a parent by their side as much as possible.
She worked during the day as a special assistant to Rep. Elijah E. Cummings. He worked nights at a restaurant and wasn't home early Thursday when a fire rapidly destroyed their three-story home in Northeast Baltimore while six of their children were trapped inside.
One of their middle daughters, 8-year-old Erin — a third-grader at City Neighbors Charter School — helped her mother pull her 4-year-old sister Jane and 5-year-old brother Jack from the fire. The two younger children and Katie Malone are still in hospitals being treated for the injuries.
Fire had fully engulfed the house in the 4200 block of Springwood Ave. when firefighters arrived about 12:30 a.m. Thursday, and the cause has not been determined. It was among Baltimore's deadliest fires in recent history.
Fire officials have not released the names of the children who died — a 9-month-old boy, a 2-year-old boy, 3-year-old twin girls, and 10- and 11-year-old girls. — but City Neighbors Charter School officials identified the 11-year-old as Bridgette Malone and the 10-year-old as Amelia.
As Katie Malone, 40, remained in critical condition Friday at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, family and friends tried to process the unfathomable loss. They prayed and collected money and began planning ways for a grieving community to help.
Jane and Jack were in good condition at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Erin was released Thursday.
From her hospital bed hours after the fire, Katie Malone signed "I love you" to those gathered nearby, her friend Stephanie Horvath Smith said.
Smith, who graduated with Malone from the Institute of Notre Dame in 1994, spent much of Friday using Facebook, making phone calls and reaching out to the local Catholic network. Friends and family hadn't figured out what clothing sizes or toys would be best, but arranged for the public to drop off gift cards at the School Sisters of Notre Dame on North Charles Street near Bellona Avenue.
More than $209,000 was contributed to a Go Fund Me page for the family as of Saturday morning. Smith said they'll need money for burial and medical expenses — and for rebuilding their lives.
Various other efforts also were underway. Michael Roslan's Diablo Doughnuts in Fells Point is selling $3 heart-shaped doughnuts, sending all of the proceeds — $512 on Friday — to the family. Immaculate Heart of Mary School in Towson is among other parishes and schools taking up collections.
Archbishop William E. Lori has asked what assistance the family may need, archdiocesan spokesman Sean Caine said.
"Archbishop Lori has asked all Catholics in the Archdiocese of Baltimore to pray for the Malone family at this tragic time and extends the prayers and concern of the Catholic community to all who mourn the tremendous loss of life caused by this fire," Caine said.
At City Neighbors Charter School, students were grappling with the loss of two of their classmates. Bridgette, 11, was in sixth grade. Amelia, 10, was in fourth.
Some students described Bridgette as kind and as a "go to girl" friends could turn to in times of need. As the oldest, she took care of her siblings.
"She was a jewel. A precious jewel. And she was always working hard," said Shakia Paylor, her music teacher.
Bridgette loved musicals, especially "Hamilton." Students decorated a wall with notes and playbills in her memory.
Students decorated Amelia's locker with photos, including one of her kneeling, intently reading a book. A handwritten note said, "Why and how did you die because we all want you to be here with us."
Principal Kate Seidel said, "Amelia had an ethereal, joyous spirit."
Teacher Sharon Jackson recalled when Amelia acted in a Greek mythology production. "I called her my Medusa," Jackson said.
"These past few days we really focused on helping our students and teachers cope with the loss and come together to express all the sorrow and love they have for each other," said Bobbi Macdonald, director of the City Neighbors Foundation.
Students realized Erin no longer has a place to sleep, so they set out to make her sheets for a bed, searching the school for cloth. Some of Jack's kindergarten classmates understood that the family had lost their home and decided they wanted to build them a house. One offered that his dad is a roofer, Macdonald said.
She said the principal had spoken with Bill Malone.
"Right now he's focused on his wife and kids to help them heal," Macdonald said.
Where the Malones' house once stood, crews were clearing away charred debris Friday while neighbors looked on. In the yard, someone had left pink tulips and a small basket filled with candles and a little white stuffed dog.
Jerome Banks, a foreman with P&J Contracting, waited outside his excavator until a large truck returned to carry another load to a dump off Edison Highway.
He'd been on the scene Thursday morning to help search through the rubble for the missing children.
Banks said he's cleared many burned-out homes, but not like this one, not with kids.
"I won't ever forget," he said.