The families of the two people killed in the Northwest Baltimore gas explosion on August 10 are asking for financial aid for their funerals as they prepare to honor their memory at an evening vigil.
Inside Baltimore’s Empowerment Temple AME Church, the families of 20-year-old Morgan State University sophomore Joseph Graham and 61-year-old Lonnie Herriott were joined by church members in asking for the community’s continued support.
The Rev. George J. Barnes III said that while the church is donating an undisclosed amount of money to help with the funeral costs, the church wants “to ensure that the family can mourn the loss of their loved ones to their choosing.”
“Today, we wanted to focus on how the explosion isn’t a loss a property, but a loss of life,” the pastor said.
The explosion last week claimed the lives of Herriott and Graham while injuring several others and displacing dozens more. Officials are still investigating the scene to determine a cause, though Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. says its equipment is not to blame.
Chala Graham, Joseph Graham’s mother, choked through tears while asking for help from the community. Still struck by the sudden nature of his death, Graham said that her son was “becoming his own man” before his passing.
After Chala spoke, members of the Graham family huddled and audibly cried, their grief only amplified against the hundreds of empty seats inside the massive church as members of the media filled only a handful.
Junetta Barnes, the church’s first lady who spoke on behalf of Herriott’s family, said she was always generous.
Barnes said Herriott “was a wonderful person that would give anything to anybody.”
“She would give the clothes off her back. Even though she had a disability, she was always doing for others,” Junetta Barnes said.
Several family members hunched over as they appeared to be holding each other up, perhaps more than physically. At one point, Joseph Graham Sr., the college sophomore’s father, displayed the accumulated exhaustion of the past week, sitting by himself away from the family, his arms on his knees taking deep breaths before walking outside.
Tia Levy, Joseph Graham’s aunt, wore a facemask reading “R.I.P Joseph,” an all-encompassing sign of the times.