Jessica Dennie, 29, was the first neighbor to call the fire department. She was driving home from work when she saw the house engulfed. Her cellphone was dead so she said she ran inside to call 911.
She and her mother, Corinne Dennie, laid flowers at a light post next to the house later that night. By Thursday, more flowers had been added, with a handful of bright orange daisies on the blanket of snow.
Neighbor Steven Klass, 63, said he was about to go to bed Wednesday night when he noticed vehicle lights outside. He watched as teenagers and young adults, using sign language to communicate, held an impromptu candlelight vigil. When he awoke at 7 a.m. Thursday, Klass said, the candles were still burning.
Colleagues of Snyder-Gardner remembered an enthusiastic educator with a hearty laugh.
“Her specialty in the classroom was tough love,” said Regina Nuzzo, a colleague in the math department. “She taught freshman math, a class most students come in dreading. But over and over, I saw her students say, ‘She really changed my perspective on math. I loved her course.’ She was one of those no-nonsense teachers that somehow everyone adores.”
Neal Matthews, 20, was in her math class last year, and said that one day the students wrote “sexy mama” on the board to make her laugh. He has known her and her family for “five wonderful years,” and on Thursday he wore a pink handkerchief wrapped around his head.
A volunteer with the Kent Island Fire Department, Matthews said two Christmases ago he took Mary Ann to the fire station with a group of their friends. They played hide-and-seek and laughed so hard that other firefighters came running in to see what was going on.
“I can’t describe them,” the Gallaudet freshman said of the mother and daughter. “They’re amazing. Everyone loved them.”
He drove with Evatt that night to visit the house.
Evatt said she moved to the area only a year ago and quickly became friends with Mary Ann, a cheerleader who, unlike other teenagers who use the phrase “you only live once,” really understood it. Soon Evatt was among a small group of girls who would spend weekends at the family’s house.
“That was my haven,” Evatt said. That’s where she and the girls stuffed themselves with mashed potatoes one night in a contest to see who could eat the most and where, at Laura Snyder-Gardner’s suggestion, they made s’mores in the back yard on a frigid night.
Evatt said that’s what she was thinking about as she stood in front of family’s charred home.
“All of these memories,” she said. “Just remembering all of the things that happened, and it’s no longer there.”