The faint smell of smoke and burned wood lingered in the air Sunday on Seventh Street in Marysville.
Piles of charred and splintered wood, mangled metal, pipes and other debris littered what was once home for more than a dozen people before a Sept. 17 fire reduced the structure to rubble.
The sense of loss the displaced residents felt was heavy this weekend, particularly when conversation turned to the deaths of Crystal Porter, 19, and her daughter, Katelynn Risner, 1, who never escaped the fire.
A wreath in their honor hangs on the front of a burned-out building at 312 Seventh St.
Jennifer Slyter and her boyfriend, John Roberts, two of Porter's friends and neighbors, recalled a fiery night of chaos, hysterics, powerlessness and horror when they realized Porter and her daughter never emerged from the fire.
“A whole bunch of people hit their knees and started praying to God,” Roberts remembered, as word spread that Porter and her daughter were likely still inside.
“She was one heck of a mom,” Roberts said. “Her whole world revolved around her daughter.”
The cause of the fire was under investigation Sunday, and no new information was available from the Marysville Police Department.
A memorial service for Porter and her daughter is scheduled at 1 p.m. Tuesday at the New Beginnings Wesleyan Church in Marysville.
Fire victims gathered Sunday in a Rentals Unlimited office a few blocks away from the fire to accept some donations of clothes, furniture and household items. Office manager Shelly Purdue helped them get what they needed.
Slyter said she met Porter several years ago through her cousin, Michael Risner, who was Katelynn's father.
Porter helped Roberts and Slyter get an apartment in the ill-fated building in May.
The couple and neighbors Nicole Law and Denny McCarty spent long moments recalling the night of the fire and how they struggled to cope.
Slyter and Roberts heard commotion outside their apartment and went outside to see what was going on. Seeing the flames, Slyter said, residents frantically raced to put the fire out.
Roberts and McCarty used garden hoses to douse the fire that quickly became too big for them to put out, they said.
Slyter said she began looking for Porter, hoping that someone had seen her or that Porter went to an uncle's home to visit.
“We prayed to God that maybe she was visiting,” she said.
Slyter recalled a fond memory of Porter and her daughter as they walked to pick up Porter's diploma for completing home school. Katelynn kept taking her shirt off, and Porter kept putting it back on. It became a bit of a game, Slyter said.
“She'd hold it up and start laughing,” Slyter said of Katelynn. It was typical of her personality, she said.
“(Katelynn) was happy. Everybody in the apartment complex knew her,” Slyter said.
Appeal-Democrat reporter Daniel Witter can be reached at 749-4712. You may e-mail him at email@example.com.