Jaline and Jabare, 6 and 5, stood barefoot on their front porch yesterday, their luminous brown eyes wide, trying to take in what the grown-ups were telling them about their pal, Joshua.
A few doors away, the Hernandez brothers, Jose and Francisco, were trying to understand, too. Jose, 10, idly rode circles in the street on his bike. Francisco, 5, hugged a pole at his front door and said he would miss Joshua.
And going house to house were the older children, Sueann, 14, and Danielle, 13, carrying their homemade, cardboard condolence card with a big cross and the word "Joshua" on the front. They carried colored markers so people in the Silver Spring neighborhood could sign.
It was hot and still on Tahona Drive yesterday, one day after Joshua Deen, 5, "little Joshua," as Sueann called him, was killed by a runaway car in a freak accident outside a nearby Giant supermarket while walking with his mother.
Children seemed confused. Jabare knew his friend got "slammed" by a car and had gone to heaven. But the adults, parents and grandparents were quite clear about the random, unfathomable horror of the accident: One minute your child is there; the next, he's dead.
County police tried to reconstruct the accident that killed Joshua on Thursday, when a car driven by Rohena Nelson, 64, of Valleyview Avenue in Takoma Park, suddenly accelerated from a parking space and crashed into the boy.
Police said they had found no recalls or repair bulletins for the 1991 Oldsmobile Cutlass, the model of car driven by Nelson.
Police also were examining the car's mechanics, had interviewed Nelson, and were looking into her medical background. A neighbor said Thursday that Nelson had undergone head surgery recently. People who answered the door and phone at her house yesterday said she was unavailable.
Meanwhile, two makeshift memorials quickly went up: One was at the scene of the crash, where passersby filled a shopping cart with flowers, teddy bears, balloons and sentiments such as "Blessed child." The other, of flowers, stuffed animals and the neighborhood condolence card, was outside the front door of the Deens' modest two-story brick home.
At both places children bore questions--"How old was the boy?" asked a red-haired girl of 5--and looks of wonder. Parents clutched their children's hands more tightly and shuddered at the suddenness of the boy's death.
"You think how life is so short," Waldina Hernandez, 33, a neighbor of the Deens', said as she stood near the stroller carrying her son, Erick, 2. "And you are not safe anywhere. It's really sad."
Some parents said they were so frightened by the crash that they deliberately put off their errands for another day.
Others, who had to go to the Giant, said they could barely stand to pass the spot.
"I didn't want to walk past," said Novella Malloy, 35, of Silver Spring, as she stood near the accident site with her children, Charlotte, 16, and Tatiana, 1, and nephew, Markkel, 2. "It hurt me."
On Tahona Drive, where basketballs sat idle in yards and the lawn swing where children congregated in the Deens' back yard stood empty, Joshua was remembered as a delightful little boy.
"Oh, he was such a friendly kid," said Elony Abrams, 44, the grandmother of Jaline and Jabare, as they paused on their porch next door to the Deens. "Very friendly. Loving. . . . He was a little, skinny boy, a cute, handsome boy."
Joshua had been playing at Abrams's house with her grandchildren right before his mother, Helen, took him to the Giant for a cold drink, Abrams said. In fact, he was there a lot, she said.
"If it was snowing, Joshua would come over in the snow," she said. "If it rains, Joshua would be here, ringing the doorbell. Whenever the doorbell rang and I looked through the window and I didn't see a tall person, I don't ask who. I open the door. Because I know it's Joshua."
"Are the boys here?" he would ask. Or, "When will they be back?"
And as heat and grief settled over Tahona Drive yesterday, the children stared and the grown-ups shook their heads. Something seemed to be missing.
Abrams said, "We are looking for Joshua today here with us."
CAPTION: A woman walks by a shopping cart memorial in honor of Joshua Deen, 5.