Funeral held for boy, 8, who died during house fire

Troy Douglas no longer sits at his desk at William Paca Elementary. The third-grader's classmates and teachers have decorated it with cards and balloons to preserve his memory.

The 8-year-old no longer walks past the house on Lakewood Avenue that burst into flames last week as he made his way home from school, leaving Troy buried under bricks and debris. A wreath of blue flowers — his favorite color — hangs from the chain-link fence surrounding the ruined structure.

At Troy's funeral Wednesday, mourners said that though the bright-eyed boy is gone, Southeast Baltimore will not forget the smile and sense of humor that brought his community together in both life and death.

"He was such as loving child," the school's principal, Stacy Tose, told a crowd of hundreds at the Church of Dynamic Deliverance. She described him as "a positive spirit."

"So many people are going to miss him," she said.

Mourners filled pews and cramped into aisles, many wearing T-shirts with pictures of Troy. One read, "I know you're shining down on me my angel."

Details of the boy's death remain unclear a week after the building collapse shook the neighborhood north of Patterson Park, also injuring another boy outside and two adults inside the home.

Fire officials said the incident remains under investigation and have not released a cause. Though witnesses said they heard a loud blast before the fire broke out, investigators have not confirmed an explosion.

A corner lamppost near the home has been gathering tributes since Troy's death, and there are now dozens of balloons, flowers and candles along the sidewalk.

Douglas' mother, Shanika Brown, said her son was walking home from school when he was killed. His family had been planning to go out that night to celebrate a cousin's birthday by playing laser tag.

"You never expect for your son to come out of school and … be gone," Brown said in an interview last week. "I told him to have a good day at school. That was it." She did not speak during the funeral service.

Hezakyah Hynson, 9, who wore a black T-shirt with his best friend's picture on the front, said after the funeral that he sat next to Troy in class. They often would play basketball — Troy's favorite sport. And he recalled Troy's sense of humor. "He was funny."

During the service, one of his teachers described Troy as a favorite with the staff and a bright student — though one who sometimes forgot to turn in assignments.

She described excuses including, "The dog ate my homework," and 'I'll have it tomorrow,'" causing the church to burst into laughter.

Another teacher, Alena Koshansky, said Troy's classmates continue to grieve his loss. "We thank you for sharing him with us."

Troy's classmates had also signed two large, heart-shaped posters. One student wrote, "Troy was the best football player," while another wrote, "Troy you are my man."

A cousin told the crowd that Troy used to race home from school and stash his book bag at home before running to nearby Ellwood Park to play basketball.

"You had these big old brown eyes," she said. "We used to call you 'Elmo.'"

A family obituary that appeared in the program recalled him as a "motivated third grader eager to learn," who also loved sports, video games and being with his cousins.

"You could always count on him to keep everyone amused, there was never a dull moment, and he was the life of the household," the obituary said.

Some pictures in the program show Troy as an infant in the arms of relatives. Another picture shows Troy and two other children standing on a sidewalk before school. In that image, Troy is wearing a bright white collared polo, shorts, sneakers and a backpack.

Several politicians attended, including City Councilman Warren Branch, who represents the area and spoke of how the community, all too often afflicted with tragedy, had pulled together after this one.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake told Troy's mother that the city shares her grief.

"As a mother, my heart aches for you," she said.

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