CHARLESTON (AP) —
Tearful students drew pictures and letters that were posted on a “memory wall” at their West Virginia elementary school Monday in honor of two classmates who were among nine people killed in a weekend house fire.
Seven-year-old Bryan Timothy “B.J.” Camp and his 8-year-old sister, Keahana, attended Shoals Elementary School in Charleston.
B.J. Camp was taken off life support at a hospital on Sunday, bringing the death toll from Saturday’s fire to seven children and two adults. Among the dead were the Camp children’s mother, 26-year-old Alisha Carter-Camp, and their 3-year-old brother, Jeremiah.
As many as eight grief counselors and 20 county administrative staffers were at the school to help students and teachers cope with the loss. A teacher also rode a bus on the way to school to answer students’ questions.
The students’ pictures, drawn in pencil, markers and crayon, were posted on the wall of the school cafeteria. They were decorated with rainbows, hearts, and messages of love and support.
In one picture, large hands held two children with halos over their heads. It read, “They’re in God’s hands now.”
Classmates also wrote cards that will be sent to the family.
Kristen Dickens, B.J. Camp’s first-grade teacher, said the day had a rough start because students were dealing with the initial shock of the tragedy, because some didn’t know about it.
Once the students learned they would draw pictures and cards for the memory wall and the family, “they started to really focus on being supportive to the family,” Dickens said. “I thought that was interesting for such a young group. They quit crying and quit worrying about their own sadness to be comforting to others, which was really amazing to see first graders make that transition. I thought that was really amazing.”
The school also shared a recent letter from Keahana Camp to her second-grade teacher, Tonya Baird. It read:
“Dear teacher, I love your teaching and I love this school and I love your math scills and your spelling test and we went to the best school ever in my life and I have the best teacher. Love Keahana!”
On Friday, Dickens recalled, B.J. Camp was excited to go home to blow up balloons for his mother’s 26th birthday party. He drew a picture and did artwork of an owl on his own that he planned to give to her.
“The last thing he said to me on Friday was, ‘Mrs. Dickens, I’m so excited. My mom’s birthday party is just in a couple more hours,”’ she said. “He always had a big smile on his face. And the pictures you see of him smiling big, that’s how he looked all the time.”
The cause of the fire remains under investigation. Funeral arrangements were incomplete Monday.