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Friends, family, strangers pay respects to six Malone children who died in Northeast Baltimore fire

Outreach to the Malone family who lost six children in a fire "has been phenomenal," their father said.

As Bill Malone greeted friends, family and total strangers paying their respects this weekend after the fire that killed six of his nine children last month, he found himself repeatedly going back to the same word: "overwhelmed."

The Jan. 12 blaze that destroyed their Northeast Baltimore home rocked the city, drew hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations and attracted an international outpouring of condolences that included messages from both Presidents Barack Obama and Donald J. Trump.

"The outreach, love and support from the community has been phenomenal," Bill Malone said. "The whole feeling of seeing everyone come out has been so amazing."

Smiling photographs and favorite possessions of Bridgette, Amelia, Amanda, Zoe, William IV, and Daniel, brought visitors to Hubbard Funeral Home in Catonsville to tears.

In her picture, Bridgette, 11, grinned with a puppy on her lap. A DVD of the movie "State Fair" and a butterfly coloring book lay on the table, along with a "Hamilton: An American Musical" calendar.

A photo of Amelia, 10, smiling by the water was accompanied by two books from her favorite series, Disney's "The Descendants" by Melissa de la Cruz.

The 3-year-old twins, Amanda and Zoe, loved "My Little Pony" and "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," and their toys were on the table next to their photos. The pictures showed Amanda on a porch wearing a white Hawaiian lei and Zoe in a colorful set of pajamas and a knit hat, sticking out her tongue.

A "Winnie the Pooh" book was placed next to a photo of William, or Billy, 2, with a bucket of crayons.

The youngest, Daniel — Danny — was only nine months old. His blocks and blue blanket adorned his place at the table.

Their mother, Katie Malone, is recovering from burns and smoke inhalation at her parents' home in Catonsville, where the surviving family has been staying since the fire, Bill Malone said.

She is doing daily physical therapy, walking and playing Nintendo Wii games such as darts and tennis to recover her mobility, her husband said.

The three surviving children — 4-year-old Jane, 5-year-old Jack, and 8-year-old Erin — have taken a leave of absence from school until later this month, he said.

The children's maternal grandmother, Sandy Ward, a teacher at St. Mark Catholic School in Catonsville, said she was struck in particular by the children's politeness and thankfulness.

"These six will be truly missed," she said.

Ward said she, too, was dumbstruck by the love shown to her family in the weeks since the fire.

"The whole family is so humbled by the outpouring of love, prayers and contributions," she said.

The cause of the fire has not been determined. Bill Malone said he is making lists of all the documents and other possessions that need to be recovered or replaced. He has taken a leave of absence from his job as a chef at Domino's Pizza in Cockeysville, where he had been working during the blaze, while the family mourns.

The public viewing Sunday followed a private reception on Saturday.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, to whom Katie Malone has been a longtime aide, said she had worked in his office during her pregnancies. He paused more than once as he spoke to blink away tears.

"This is one of the most painful things I've experienced in my life," Cummings said. "When you see or hear about six beautiful children who will not graduate, who will not grow up to be married, who will not grow up to be grandparents, it makes you sad for what could have been."

Katie Malone's work in his small Baltimore office includes assisting Marylanders with immigration issues and helping underprivileged students from the state gain admission into the nation's service academies, Cummings said.

When Cummings visited her in the hospital, he said, she expressed concern about the students with whom she'd been working on service academy applications.

Her devotion to people from all walks of life could be seen in the faces of the people at Saturday's private viewing, Cummings said.

"It looked like the United Nations in here," he said.

"They never imagined there could be so much support coming from so many people from so many places," he continued. "I've got to tell you, in these difficult times, it makes me feel very, very good for what America truly is all about."

Christi McKinney and her mother, Hope Godish, said Katie Malone was instrumental in helping them get McKinney's brother out of Japan following a catastrophic tsunami.

McKinney said Malone, then a complete stranger, reached out after seeing her plight on Facebook.

"This is who I am, where I work and how I can help," she remembered Malone saying.

"She told us what to say, who to go to, who to call," McKinney said.

They've since become friends. When McKinney and her family heard about the fire, they were horrified. They were glad to be able to pay their respects.

"We wouldn't be anywhere else," Godish said.

Sen. Ben Cardin offered his support to the Malone family and friends at the viewing. He said the groundswell of love is a testament to the people of Baltimore.

"Baltimore has always been known for its neighborhoods," he said. "This represents, to me, the strength of neighborhoods. ... You see that in how they celebrate and how they mourn."

Denise Harrison said she didn't know the family, but was so moved by the tragedy that she wanted to give them something.

The East Baltimore woman made a large, glittering, white-and-gold wreath with the names of the children who died on it for the family.

"It don't just affect the Malones," she said. "It affects everybody, the whole community."

Michelle Morkovin brought her son, Dalton, 10, a classmate and friend of Amelia at City Neighbors Charter School. Their class had been making a giant chameleon with a six-foot tail, they said. Amelia never got to see it.

Morkovin began to explain how Dalton had been a bit of a difficult child when he was younger, but Amelia never lost patience with him. Dalton interrupted his mother.

"She never lost her patience with anyone," he said. "She was the sweetest person you'd ever expect to meet."

The "Hamilton" calendar on the table by Bridgette's picture was open to a quote from the musical:

"Legacy. What is a legacy? It's planting seeds in a garden you never get to see. I wrote some notes at the beginning of a song someone will sing for me. America you great unfinished symphony, you sent for me."

Echoing the sentiment, packets of seeds with the children's names on them were placed at the front of the viewing room to be planted in their memories.

"As you plant these seeds in honor of me," each packet read, "know that I am with you and will always be."

cmcampbell@baltsun.com

twitter.com/cmcampbell6

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