Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Larimer Fire

In a post entitled Where are Pittsburgh bloggers on the fire in Larimer?, author Sue of Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents writes:

Does the intersection of race and poverty have anything to do with this horrific tragedy or can we simply lay it at the feet of two African-American women and call it a day? We have no way to know until more information comes to light. But I'm saying that a 25 year old mother of four and 20-something mother of three need some support to parent well under the best of circumstances. What kind of supports did these women have that they chose to leave their children alone? What kind of supports even exist in Larimer?

House fires are typically a little "Live at 5" for us. Yet in this instance, five very young lives from two separate families were claimed, and it must be a significant trauma to everyone close to them.

Continuing coverage by the Trib's Jill King Greenwood and the Post-Gazette's Haynes, McKinnon, and Silver all reveal that details, as it were, are emerging. Or not emerging.

We at the Comet are in no rush to use the latest macabre headlines to push for sweeping changes, as there is a danger of allowing our preconceived world-view to distort our view of real events, perhaps doing more harm than good in the process.

Maybe the concern we all feel will bubble up in the halls of government. Maybe some individuals will take it upon themselves to pull some data, take one more look at response-times, resource allocation, or whatever. Maybe they'll find something that can be tightened up a bit, or maybe they'll figure out a new way of doing something.

In the meantime, maybe best thing we can do is give these families space to grieve.


  1. Everytime I see these babies picture, I cry. I can't fathom why something like this had to happen. I can't imagine how the two older kids must feel after doing something we all have done as children (ligthting matches) and having to live with their being the cause of their siblings deaths. I can't seem to get the thought out of my head of those poor children screaming for help. As a parent of 2 myself that I would never leave my children with someone down the street knowing very little about them including their name.
    If it comes out that there was no sitter and these women went out for drinks and left those babies alone, that angers me. I have had many opportunities to go out for a few drinks, movies, etc. but did not have childcare so I didn't go.
    Never would it occur to me to leave my children at home alone, people don't even leave their children alone in a car these days or anywhere. If the truth is that these women went to a bar to have a good time and left these children alone and had a clear conscience about that then Sue's comment really ticks me off. I'm getting the impression that she's blaming the government for these
    women's choices because they were given no support. Then questioning if it had to do with race and poverty. It kinda sounds like blame everyone else except for the
    mothers whom the children should have been protected by.
    Sue must not have any children? How else can she make those statements. I don't think any parent could read that and say, These women went out for drinks and left their kids alone because they didn't have a supports in their area. There is a woman who lives close by that has 6 children, the oldest being 9.
    She has at times left these children in the care of that 9 year old and gone off to go shopping or wherever she goes and I have been looking out for these kids when I am home. I have talked to their mother and nothing phases this woman she doesn't think something bad is going to happen to them. I have no money, I work,
    do the best I can for my children
    often doing without myself just so they can have more.
    I don't have supports and yet I would never, never even consider leaving my precious ones home alone. These women made bad choices and as a result a terrible tragedy occurred for the mothers,
    the babies and the surviving children who will have to live with the grief of feeling they caused this and it should not have been left on their little shoulders to begin with. All I can do now is pray for all families involved and for others who are under the delusion that nothing bad can ever happen to them

  2. Bram,

    I'm not calling for sweeping change, just acknowledgement. I think that naming this tragedy and honoring the lives of the victims is different than chasing Grandpa and the next-door neighbor down with cameras rolling.

    It saddens me that the bloggers have been so intent on tripping up Luke about Oakmont that they've now even acknowledged this story. All that energy would be better put to use critiquing how city services served or failed this family. We can't do that YET without more information, but we can name the tragedy. Otherwise, it becomes just another way to bash Luke.

    There is a public grief here, too. At least, I would hope the tragic deaths of five children would generate a public grief.

    Thanks for the dialogue. It is good to know someone is paying attention.

  3. Sue,

    IF the mothers left their babies alone, especially locked in a room from the outside(?).....or IF they left them with a babysitter whose last name and address they didn't even know just to go drink....THAT should be the focus of critique for the blogging world. Except, of course, until we find out IF that is true or not.

    Until then, dialogue about city services that served or failed this family? What services are you talking about that could have had any meaningful bearing whatsoever on the outcome of a tragedy set in motion by the (possible) horrific neglect of those babies own mothers?

    The fire trucks arrived within a minute. Those men and even neighbors risked their lives to try to save those children.

    I think your original post mentioned something about a lack of "after school care". Oh, I really don't want to go there and hope you aren't either. No city provides after school care at 1 AM.

    If by "city services" you are talking about child protection agencies that don't protect the children, but instead leave them in the care of their unfit parents...yes, that is something of importance to discuss. And after all the facts are known, that discussion might even apply here.

    But whatever culpability the city had in this heartbreak (and in my mind I think it is very probaby zero).... Focusing attention on that outrageously small and peripheral part of the story disrespects and disservices the death of those children at least as much as bashing Luke in the interim. "Interim" meaning until the facts are known.

  4. what char said.

    except I think we all need to keep in mind that this was an accident - these mothers didn't set fire to their own children, it was. an. accident. however, assigning blame to city services seems even more ludicrous than crucifying the mothers (and while we're on the subject, where were the fathers? being a single mom of four children under nine can't be easy.)