Father's Day turned into a nightmare for an Irvington, New Jersey, woman Sunday while she sat in church waiting for her grandson and his mother to come help her remember his deceased father in a special Father's Day service at Solid Rock Church. Stephon Sydney, his mother and four other family members were wailing for help in a tragic house fire that killed them all.
Iris Sydney learned the devastating news that her grandson, Stephon, and his mother, Noreen Johnson, 43, had perished with four other relatives from a sheriff's deputy who was waiting at her door as she returned from church, according to The Associated Press. The mother and son had travelled all the way from Crawford, Georgia, for the special occasion.
"I can't believe this," said the devastated woman as she clutched a portrait of the boy and his mother and stared at the charred remains of the house where they died Sunday.
"But I'm telling you: I buried my husband, I bury my son, and now this is my grandchild. I feel it. I feel it in my heart. This is a sad day for the Sydney family. It is."
Other family members killed in the fire include: Salome Steward and her husband, Reginald Stewart, both 58; Salome's sister, Natasha Kinsale, 47; and Zion Forbes, 11, who was visiting from East Orange.
The teenager's aunt, Cheryl Sydney, still dressed in her white church dress, described the boy and his mother as she observed the destroyed home.
"Main thing is that she (mother) was a good person, a young, vibrant person," she said. "This is my nephew — young, 15-years-old, artistic, poetry, dancer, he did not deserve this."
Carol Valentine said her fiancé, who owns the house next door to where the fire started, said he was out of town when the fire started and returned home to see his house on fire.
She said if his flight had not been delayed he probably would have been asleep and been a casualty of the blaze.
"He'd been delayed on planes for two days. He had gone to a graduation," she said. "Had he not been delayed, he would have been sleeping, and he probably wouldn't be alive."
Other neighbors said they heard the dying family screaming for help but there was nothing they could do.