By Michael Davis
Trying to makes sense of tragedy, Rich Leary tells his 8-year-old daughter Deija that her friend from across the street is now in "a better place."
Her friend, 4-year-old Kayla Jackson, was killed late Sunday night in a fire at her Hampton area home.
Teresa, Kayla's 7-year-old sister, and Deija's schoolmate at Hampton Elementary, and her mother, Addlyn, escaped the blaze.
Teresa ran to a neighbor's home for help.
"She was screaming," said Leary, 34, who lives across the street. "She said there was a fire."
Fire investigators were working Monday to determine the exact cause of the fire that broke out just after 11:30 p.m..
Kelly Jackson, 30, the girls' uncle, lives just a few houses away, and members of the extended family gathered at his home Monday to help each other deal with the tragedy. Kelly Jackson's wife, Mimi, 34, wept in the street as she approached the burned-out home where Kayla died.
"[Teresa] woke up because she heard the alarm go off," said Kelly Jackson. "She ran downstairs and she saw the fire on the love seat."
Two of Riter and Addlyn Jackson's four children, Jalyn, 6, and Devaughn, 2, were with their father on a late-night shopping trip, Kelly Jackson said.
When they returned, the home was ablaze.
A make-shift memorial sprang up Monday as neighbors and friends, including Rich Leary's daughter Deija, left stuffed animals against the family's mail box.
The home, in a modest subdivision of brick, stucco and vinyl homes with sidewalks on both sides of the street and underground streetlights, was all but destroyed in the blaze. The back and one side wall collapsed in the blaze along with the roof. A neighboring home suffered minor damage to the vinyl siding facing the Jackson's home, apparently due to the heat.
"I just saw the kids the other day playing in the yard," said Terrell Upshur, 15, who lives next door.
One Henry County firefighter, Dale Hayes, 32, suffered first- and second-degree burns on his forearms and wrists and was transported to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta for treatment, said Henry County Fire Capt. Sabrina Puckett.
Kelly Jackson said the tragedy is especially difficult around the holidays. "It just takes the magic out of it, for sure," he said.
"We're just trying to hang in there-trying to move on. That's the best we can do."