Family honors children who died in Edna fire
Nov. 25, 2017 at 9:42 p.m.
Updated Nov. 27, 2017 at 1 a.m.
GANADO - The blue sky outside Ganado was temporarily decorated with colorful polka dots Saturday morning as 25 pink, blue, red and purple balloons glided away from Assumption Cemetery. Upon release, the strings of five of the balloons entangled and created a floating star in the sky.
"Look - the five made a star. That's them together," a family member of Noah Ortiz, Nicholas Ortiz, Julian Ortiz, Lilyana Hernandez and Areyanah Hernandez said.
It's been three years since an early morning mobile house fire took the lives of the aforementioned five children, who ranged from ages 5 to 15.
Only parents Annabel Ortiz and Johnny Hernandez Jr., and their youngest son, Johnny Hernandez III, survived the deadly fire. More than 40 of their family members gathered at the graves of the children Saturday morning to reflect and honor the lives of the children.
Belinda Garcia, the children's grandmother, was without a balloon for the ceremony after the purple balloon she held in her hand suddenly popped.
"Lily loved purple. It was her favorite color," she said. "She wanted her balloon."
Garcia said she has a brown table in her home that she typically decorates for holidays or seasons. The table has pictures of the children along with some of their favorite toys.
"I know they're in heaven but it's still hard," she said. "I know I'll see them again one day."
The Rev. Andrew Schroer of Redeemer Lutheran Church spoke at the service and offered words of comfort for the family members.
Before Schroer read Psalm 23 from a Bible, Johnny Hernandez III, 7, ran up to Schroer to hand him a paper that had flown away. Johnny, affectionately known as 3J, was only 4 when he lost his older siblings.
"Heaven is truly a family reunion, and you will see your brothers and sisters again," Schroer said during the service.
Anna Garcia, cousin of Annabel Ortiz, sang a song titled "Dancing in the Sky" during the ceremony.
"It's my way to honor the kids. Supporting each other is good for the healing process," Garcia said.
Ortiz and her husband wore matching white T-shirts with a photo of the children with "Mommy's Angels" printed on top of the image.
For the couple, time has not served as a remedy for the pain they feel.
"People say that it gets easier with time - it doesn't. It gets harder every day for us, our family and friends," Ortiz said.
Hernandez said the past three years have been the most difficult for the family.
Hernandez and Ortiz find support in each other and through their son, 3J, he said.
"Every day, every moment is worse than the last," Hernandez said. "They (the children) meant more than they'll ever know. They affected more than who was here today - our community, their friends and teachers."