As a small community, Hellertown is known as a place in which neighbors help neighbors in need, and that has been the case since a house fire claimed the lives of two girls Friday.
On Sunday, residents came together to show their support for the Kaufman family, whose home at 630 Linden Avenue in the borough was destroyed in the early morning blaze.
Outside the ruined home–which is now surrounded by temporary fencing–a makeshift memorial featuring flowers, messages of support, balloons and stuffed animals has been created as a place for a grief-stricken community to think about the young lives lost.
The memorial served as a backdrop for Sunday night’s vigil, which was attended by hundreds of friends, neighbors and classmates, plus others who didn’t know 15-year-old Brianna Baer and 10-year-old Abigail Kaufman but wanted to help support their family.
“We lost two angels,” said Hellertown American Legion Commander Eric Medei, who called the Kaufman and Baer families “valued members of our post” and at times became emotional describing the impact the tragedy has had on so many in the community.
“I have a 23-year-old daughter myself, and I just can’t imagine the pain and the suffering that the family’s going through,” he said.
Medei said Brianna and Abigail’s parents, who survived the two-alarm blaze, need to feel the support of their community. He encouraged those who know Jennifer and Damien Kaufman to reach out with a phone call or a text, just to “let them know you love them; let them know you support them.”
He added that he had visited with them on Sunday and given them clothing collected by the Legion. During the visit, Medei said he offered the Kaufmans “as much support as they possibly need.”
He extended that offer to the community, by reminding those present that the Legion post is open to all who need a shoulder to cry on and acknowledging that the healing from this loss will take months, or possibly years.
Before and after the vigil, small groups of teens could be seen quietly shedding tears, while others added items to or viewed the fence memorial along Linden Avenue.
Counseling will be available Monday for Saucon Valley students who knew Brianna Baer and Abigail Kaufman and need to talk with someone, a school district official confirmed.
The investigation into what caused the fire is ongoing, and involves both borough and state fire marshals as well as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, according to information shared by the Hellertown Police Department Friday.
Medei took time during Friday night’s gathering to publicly thank the “brave” police and the firefighters who he said “battled their asses off” to try and save the girls, who police have said were trapped by the flames in a second-floor bedroom.
“You guys are true heroes,” Medei said of the first responders, many of whom were in attendance.
Mayor David Heintzelman also spoke at the vigil, and Pastor Phil Spohn of Christ Lutheran Hellertown offered a prayer.
At the conclusion of the event, Medei invited attendees to the Legion, where he said food donated by Mission BBQ would be available.
Numerous fundraisers for the Kaufman family are either ongoing or planned. Click here to view the list and email email@example.com with details of other fundraiser plans.