John Maryea told his 6-year-old daughter, Hailey, that it’s OK to cry because that would help heal the pain.
Hailey cried softly as she walked up to the memorial for Neytria Manasse, 5, while an excavator roared in the background, demolishing the home at 1134 6th Ave. where Neytria and her uncle, McClintock Tyrerese Douglas, 26, died in a fire Tuesday morning.
Hailey placed a Hello Kitty stuffed animal across the street along with the dozens of teddy bears, candles, flowers and balloons. She put a silver bracelet around Hello Kitty’s right arm and placed a tall white candle in front of it.
She also put something else at the memorial to symbolize their friendship.
“She painted rocks with nail polish,” Maryea said as Hailey stood by his side with her hands on her face. “It was the first thing she wanted to do.”
One rock is painted red with orange dots around the words, “Friends Hailey and Pooda.” Pooda was a nickname for Neytria. The other rock is painted purple with red and white dots around the words “RIP Pooda.”
Hailey was away at summer camp when her mother told her the news about her friend. Maryea said they decided to come back and pay their respects.
“They went to school together,” he said. “They were best friends.”
Maryea said Hailey is crying one minute and smiling the next. He said it’s difficult for her to process what happened at such a young age.
“She’s trying to find her feelings,” he said. “She’s going to remember, and I’ll stop and tell her everything.”
Neytria and her uncle, who people called “Tyreese,” were unable to escape the blaze from the second floor of the home around 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday in the Mont Pleasant neighborhood.
Autopsies performed at Albany Medical Center on Wednesday determined they died of smoke inhalation. Schenectady police officially released their names then.
The Daily Gazette previously spelled their names differently based on interviews with family and friends. Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett said the new spellings of the names police released Wednesday were taken from the police report and from interviews with the family.
Flames spread through the house and burst out the windows of the two-story home when firefighters arrived on the scene. The single-family house was demolished Wednesday morning.
Schenectady police on Wednesday said the fire was accidental and started in the kitchen.
Seven people were home at the time of the blaze. Three jumped from second-floor windows and were treated at Ellis Hospital for minor injuries. Two people escaped unharmed.
Neytria’s sister Naszay Stirges, 16, said on Tuesday that she, her mother and brother tried to save Neytria upstairs but that the flames were too hot to penetrate. She said she lived in the house for about two years with her two sisters, brother, mother and two uncles.
The street was fairly quiet on Wednesday with a couple of people at a time walking by throughout the day to add to the memorial and talk to neighbors. They hugged each other and told stories of the two victims.
After putting down the Hello Kitty, candle and rocks, Hailey and her father walked down the street to another large memorial for Neytria and Douglas. They were joined by Bonnie and Sabrina Chambers, who were friends with Douglas.
Sabrina Chambers said Douglas used to wake up early every morning and crow like a rooster, which was his nickname.
Chambers, 24, said he used to hang out at the nearby library and Family Dollar. She described him as a kind and funny person who was loved by many in the neighborhood.
The back of a garage on 6th Avenue is covered in graffiti that reads: “We love u Tyreese” and “Sleep in peace Ty & Poot” and “Rooster” in big black letters.
Reach Gazette reporter Haley Viccaro at 395-3114, firstname.lastname@example.org or @HRViccaro on Twitter.