Tears from Heaven
Published 7:11 am Monday, March 10, 2014
AHOSKIE – Even the heavens opened up and cried here Thursday evening.
As a cold rain was falling outside New Ahoskie Baptist Church, tears of sorrow fell inside as the local community gathered for an impromptu service to honor the lives of teen sisters Angel and Aaliyah Cherry, who died when a pre-dawn fire raged through their home on Mitchell Street.
Their younger brother, Omarion “Mouse” Drake, age 8, and father, Earl Drake, were both badly burned in the fire, but survived.
“Don’t hold back the tears, the tears are the way we share emotions,” said the Rev. C. David Stackhouse of New Ahoskie Baptist as he opened the hour-long service. “Later we will share hugs with one another, because there’s healing in hugs.”
Stackhouse said the idea for the service, “just came to my mind….I felt this community needed to gather together here at the alter, here on the mercy seat, and pray, not just for the two lives lost, not just for the two now in a hospital fighting for their lives, but for us, a community, as we grieve.”
“The Lord will share his mercy with us, either if we ask for it or not,” Stackhouse added. “I don’t have the answer to why this happened; only God knows why, that’s his business. How do we get through this, you may ask…the answer is we get through this by the grace of God.”
Stackhouse celebrated the legacy of Angel and Aaliyah, both faithful members of his church.
“Their smiles were contagious and they had such great respect for others,” he said. “They loved one another. They loved me, and I loved them right back….those are memories I will carry forever in my heart.”
He said Mr. Drake and little Omarion were in need of a miracle.
“Well, guess what, God specializes in miracles,” Stackhouse stressed. “In the Bible, the gospel of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John records 37 miracles that Jesus performed. Tonight, tomorrow, the next days and weeks, God can still perform miracles.
“After the storm, we know the sun will shine again,” Stackhouse added, “Miss Ruby’s (Baker, an 85-year-old murdered inside her Ahoskie home last Sunday morning) family is going through a storm. The Cherry/Drake family is going through a storm. Our whole community is going through a storm. Our entire community is crying.”
Stackhouse noted the presence of Ahoskie Elementary School Principal Stan Warren among those gathered in the sanctuary. He asked Warren to share a story about Aaliyah, a sixth-grader at the school.
“It was a blessing to have Aaliyah in our school,” Warren stated. “To see her everyday; to see that smile; to get that hug….those are memories that will stay with me.”
Warren also noted another special trait that made Aaliyah stand out.
“She was always up front in the classroom; she was a silent leader,” he observed. “Within that is greatness. That says a lot about that child, one only in the sixth grade. She was doing her best, to perform her best, in a time when that’s not always an easy thing for a teenager. We will have her in our hearts forever.”
Prior to the service, Warren told the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald that he was notified of the tragic house fire at 6 a.m. Thursday.
“We put our Crisis Plan in place as soon as the staff arrived at school that morning,” Warren said. “The (school) counselors were there, the local pastors were there to help us get through this with our students.
“We went to each classroom to tell the students what had transpired,” he added. “We felt that was important, to be up front and personal with our students. They don’t understand, but the Bible teaches us that we’re not supposed to understand (about death).”