Three young girls, father who died in Glenarden house fire are laid to rest

March 4, 2013

Teresa Price remembers the heat, the smoke that filled her bedroom. She remembers her husband’s last words to her: “I will be back to get you. Let me get the kids.”

She remembers jumping out of her bedroom window and hearing her 8-year-old daughter, who had already escaped, scream, “Daddy!” She remembers trying to open the front door of her burning Glenarden home, knowing her husband and three other daughters were still inside.

The Feb. 21 fire — sparked by a refrigerator cord that failed — would eventually kill all four, sparing only Teresa and 8-year-old Tamia. Hundreds gathered Monday in the First Baptist Church of Glenarden to say their final goodbyes to the young sisters and to the dad who died trying to save them.

Teresa, supported on either side by relatives, shuffled down the church’s aisle, then collapsed and sobbed on the closed, white casket that held two of her daughters: 11-year-old Daijah and 8-year-old Tania. She then lay her palms on another white casket — the one that held her 4-year-old daughter, Patrice, and her husband, 36-year-old Darrell Price Jr.

“I lost everything,” Teresa Price said in a brief Facebook conversation with a reporter before the ceremony.

Family members had dubbed the Price girls the “Fab Four,” and their father, a watch engineer who liked to work on cars, was well known as the quartet’s devoted provider, according to family members.

Daijah — “Nunny,” to friends and family — was a fifth-grader at Judge Sylvania Woods Elementary School and dreamed of being a veterinarian. Tania — or “Pinky” — was a second-grader at the same school and wanted to one day be on television.

Both were cheerleaders and loving big sisters to Patrice, the most outspoken of the four girls. She went by the nicknames “Tricee” or “Lil Baby,” according to the funeral program.

“They was real energetic. They was real loved,” said Alan Howard, the girls’ great-uncle. The fire at their home on Leslie Avenue, he said, “broke a link in the chain.”

Teresa Price said in the Facebook conversation that she noticed the smell of something burning in the wee hours of Feb. 21 and asked her husband about it. Darrell Price, she said, got up, opened the door to their bedroom and yelled, “The house is on fire!” He grabbed a blanket and went for his daughters.

His last words, Teresa Price said, were: “I will be back to get you. Let me get the kids.”

Price said she waited in the room as long she could, knowing her husband would try to return for her because she suffers from a disease that makes walking difficult. But when the heat became too much to bear, Price said she smashed the glass of a window in her one-story home and jumped out. That is when she heard Tamia, Tania’s twin sister who goes by the nickname “Peaches,” screaming.

Price said that Tamia told her she had broken out the glass on a door and escaped.

Tamia told her mother that when she last saw her father, he had fallen to the floor and Tania and Daijah were trying to help him up. Patrice, the youngest, was wrapped in a blanket, she said.

Howard said family members believe Darrell Price died trying to save his family. “He was not going to leave out the house without them,” Howard said.

Teresa Price said she tried to get back in through the front door but couldn’t get it open. Firefighters then arrived and took over. They pulled the four from inside the house and took them to hospitals, but it was too late.

At the funeral Monday, pictures of the smiling girls were set out on poster boards and beamed onto two massive screens at the head of the church — Daijah and Tania in their blue cheerleading uniforms, Patrice with colored butterfly barrettes in her hair.

Teresa Price sat with Tamia, in a pink dress, in the front row, listening stoically as Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D), Fire Chief Marc Bashoor and others expressed sorrow for their loss. She cracked a slight smile when Sherri Kittrell, director of the Seat Pleasant recreation center, joked about the girls munching on bologna sandwiches and vending-machine snacks at cheerleading practice. Dozens of fellow cheerleaders wiped tears from their eyes throughout the ceremony.

Teresa Price did not speak, but in the funeral program, she wrote haunting letters to her daughters and husband. She mused that “if only heaven had a cell phone,” she would never lose touch with the family members she lost.

“I need y’all to call mommy or text me on your cell phones,” she wrote, “cause I know heaven has a cell phone for my babies.”

Matt Zapotosky covers the federal district courthouse in Alexandria, where he tries to break news from a windowless office in which he is not allowed to bring his cell phone.
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