Friends and strangers alike made pilgrimages yesterday to a small, grassy hillside in Woodlawn, the site of Thursday's tragic car crash that killed five members of an extended family, including four youngsters.
They arrived bearing flowers, stuffed bears, balloons and baseball cards, creating an impromptu shrine along the busy street. Small piles of mementos -- including "The Cat in the Hat," the favorite book of many a child -- marked the places where the young bodies lay covered by white sheets just a day earlier.
Sharon Addison said she did not know the victims, but felt compelled to place a bouquet of yellow and lavender flowers on the hillside.
"I have a little baby. It just gets to you," said the 39-year-old West Baltimore woman. "You come out here, and you just feel something in the air. It's just a sadness."
Almost 50 miles away, two of the survivors, Karen Fields, 27, and her 8-year-old son, Michael Hough, were seeking solace in Harford County.
"It hasn't really hit me yet," Ms. Fields, who lost two children in the accident, said, sitting in the family room of her mother and stepfather's two-story, gray colonial home in Abingdon.
Words were an effort for her. She could only sleep a little the night before, she said.
And her brown eyes were pained whenever the name of her sister, Kim Linair Dorsey, was mentioned.
Mrs. Dorsey, 25, was killed in Thursday morning's accident on Woodlawn Drive, as were her two children, Keisha, 7, and Chanell, 3.
Mrs. Dorsey's stepson, Charles Edgar Dorsey V, 8, was taken to Johns Hopkins Children's Center in critical condition, with a broken leg and punctured lung. He was upgraded to fair condition yesterday, a hospital spokeswoman said.
Two of Ms. Fields' children, Darrian Hough, 8, and Jasmine Little, 4, died in the accident. Michael was saved from injury when she pulled him aside as the 1988 red Mazda MX6 driven by Raymond Charles Haney, 32, careered toward them.
Funeral arrangements for Mrs. Dorsey and the children were incomplete yesterday.
Obie Green, Ms. Fields' stepfather, said he has talked to Michael about the crash and deaths. "He knows what happened," he said.
But the talkative little boy seemed oblivious yesterday to the sorrow that has entered his life. He has been playing, his mother said.
Ms. Fields and her son will stay at the family home, at least for a while. "They won't let me leave," she said, smiling at her mother, Irene Green.
Tristin Little, Jasmine's father, was there with her. Michael and Darrian's father is en route from Louisiana, where he is stationed in the Army.
"We're taking it hour by hour," said Mr. Green, a supervisor for Bell Atlantic. "Death is a part of life. Unfortunately, it's hard to deal with five at one time. We're trying to be strong.
Comfort in memories
The family found comfort in looking at photos of family members and remembering happier times.
There were several photos of Ms. Fields and Mrs. Dorsey, who both grew up in Govans and graduated from Northern High School in Baltimore.
"They did a lot of things together," Mr. Green said.
The sisters both worked for Johns Hopkins Hospital -- Ms. Fields in oncology radiation and Mrs. Dorsey in patient accounting.
And they lived across the street from each other in a Woodlawn apartment complex. Four small playgrounds spaced through the Hunter's Crossing Apartments were empty yesterday.
The most telling evidence of tragedy was at a swimming pool on Monika Place, where the sisters lived in the 6300 block. It was bare of children at the steamy height of a hot and humid afternoon.
"There was one child here and he left after a few minutes," said security guard Jelita Watkins. "I guess they're sticking with their moms today. The pool is usually packed on a hot day like this.
"The children are pretty upset," she said. "Some of them were down where it happened until after midnight, just sitting there teary-eyed."
Many continued to express their grief yesterday at the accident scene, beside the Social Security Administration complex.
Marcus Townsend said he works as a security officer at Johns Hopkins Hospital and knew Mrs. Dorsey. He gazed sadly at perhaps the most elaborate of the tributes, a collection that included a large family portrait of the Dorseys.
Photographs of Keisha and Chanell were taped to a tree beneath a red rose. Bunches of carnations and a vase of gladiolas were on the ground near a stuffed giraffe, a pile of baseball cards and a copy of Dr. Seuss' "The Cat in the Hat."
"Her two little kids, beautiful kids. That's them," Mr. Townsend said, shaking his head at the portrait.
Calvin Dorsey, the children's uncle, also visited the site. "I'm going to miss them," he wept.
At Johnnycake Elementary School, attended by some of the children involved in the accident, a crisis intervention team will be available to talk with students, parents and other community residents at 9 a.m. Monday.
School administrators and as many of Johnnycake's teachers as are available also will be at the school, which will be open all day.
"We'll see what the need is . . . and fill it," said William Lawrence, a school administrator from the southwest area. "We're here for the duration . . . whatever that is."