Balloons released in girls’ memory

Photo by WAVY/Erin Kelly.

AHOSKIE, N.C. (WAVY) – Classmates of two Ahoskie sisters killed in a house fire last week released balloons in their memory Monday.

A fire claimed the lives of 12-year-old Aaliyah Cherry and 13-year-old Angel Cherry. The girls’ father, Earl Drake, is still in critical condition; according to a Hertford County Schools spokesperson, he’s now in a medically-induced coma.

Angel Cherry (left) and Aaliyah Cherry (right), courtesy Facebook.
Angel Cherry (left) and Aaliyah Cherry (right), courtesy Facebook.

His son, Omarion, is also still in critical condition, at a Cincinnati Hospital. A school spokesperson said he was able to wiggle his toes this week.

Firefighters got the call around 3 a.m. Thursday and said a kerosene heater caused the accidental fire. There were no smoke detectors in the home.

Aaliyah and Angel died together in their bedroom.

The balloon ceremony was held at 1:30 p.m. at Ahoskie Elementary. Aaliyah was a sixth-grade student there. Classmates wrote notes inside purple balloons, which was Aaliyah’s favorite color. Angel was in the seventh grade at Hertford County Middle School.

The girls’ mother, Sharita Cherry, attended the ceremony, where students released 100 balloons. She said her daughters were always cheerful and liked to make others laugh. She pictured them reading the notes together.

“That’s great and I really love it. Definitely, without a doubt, they would be all smiles,” Cherry said. “I just want to thank everybody everywhere, who’s helped,” she said.

LaGina Hanson said she was Aaliyah’s homeroom teacher: “She sat right in front of my desk and she greets me in the morning with her ‘hellos’ and in the evening, ‘Bye, Ms. Hanson. See you tomorrow,’ and so it’s been a very challenging week for me.”

Chad Hobbs said Aaliyah was one of his best students: “It still hasn’t hit me. I guess the reality hasn’t sunk in. It’s still hard to believe when I walk in and see that empty seat. It’s still hard to believe that it could happen to somebody so young and innocent.”

Students at both schools have signed cards and notes in memory of the girls. Ahoskie Elementary School is holding a fundraiser this week, allowing students to pay $1 to wear a solid-colored shirt. They will wear a different color each day. The money will go toward a community outreach program to buy smoke detectors to distribute to neighbors.

A funeral has been set for Saturday at Hertford County High School at noon.

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