Notes scrawled in children's handwriting covered the walls and desks at Greenbrier Elementary and Middle schools last week.
They were messages of good-bye and sadness from pupils coping with the tragic death of two of their classmates after a house fire in Appling late Monday night.
Samuel "Wayne" Bussey and his stepdaughters Antis'cia "Monique" Marshall, 13, and Eugenia "Gena" Marshall, 9, are thought to have died from smoke and soot inhalation after their house at 3149 Johnson Drive was destroyed.
Witnesses said that before running back into the burning house, Mr. Bussey was able to help his wife Sharon and son, 5-year-old Samtavious, escape.
Samtavious was released Tuesday night from Doctors Hospital's Joseph M. Still Burn Center, where he and Mrs. Bussey were treated for smoke inhalation. Mrs. Bussey, who first name is listed as Charon on legal documents, remained in serious condition at the center Thursday.
State fire investigators said they believe the blaze started at a wood-burning stove in the house. They also said they did not find a smoke detector in the house.
Antis'cia Marshall's locker at Greenbrier Middle School has been decorated in her memory. Antis'cia died when fire swept through her home in Columbia County.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
At Greenbrier Middle, where Monique was a seventh-grader, Principal Jackie Creasy announced the girl's death over the intercom about 7:35 a.m. Tuesday though she said most pupils and staff of the tight-knit school already knew.
At the middle school and at Greenbrier Elementary, where Gena was a fifth-grader and Samtavious is in kindergarten, school counselors talked with pupils to help them handle the news.
Fifth-graders at Greenbrier Elementary filled a special bulletin board for Gena with notes and pictures of the girl, who sang in her church's choir.
At Greenbrier Middle, pupils spent Wednesday pouring their shock and sadness into flowers, cards, posters and banners that covered Monique's desk and locker, and walls around the school.
"The (seventh grade) hallway is just absolutely lined with posters and banners," Principal Jackie Creasy said. "It is very therapeutic."
A pupil-led collection at the school will pay for a memorial honoring Monique, with the remaining money headed for her family, Creasy said. Teachers also are donating funds for her family.
Greenbrier Elementary also is collecting money for the family, and school officials hope to give them a check this week.
"As a school, we will be passing the hat, collecting change and doing all we can to get some money together for the family," said the elementary school's principal Jon Pike. "I know their house was a total loss."
Greenbrier Middle's soccer team headed out Tuesday to get new shirts with a basketball and Monique's basketball-team number - 44 - added to their sleeves.
Creasy said her staff and pupils are working to coordinate a blood drive to help others, and a project to supply a smoke detector to any family at the school without one.
"The kids came up with a great deal of this," Creasy said. "It is very reassuring to know a student population that cares so deeply about their peers."
The Rev. Bussey, 36, was an associate pastor at Second Mount Carmel Baptist Church, but he performed evangelistic work at several other churches in the county, including Friendship Baptist Church and Poplar Springs Baptist Church.
"He worked with the youth and worked with the community, especially with young men trying to get the life together," said the Rev. F.C. Henderson, pastor at Poplar Springs.
The Rev. Bussey also volunteered at the now-closed Youth Development Campus in Augusta, delivering sermons on Sundays and counseling juveniles.
He sang with his wife and Gena, with Samtavious playing the drums, a skill he practiced since he was 3.
Gloria McCord, the Rev. Bussey's sister who grew up with him in the Johnson Drive house, described her brother as a fun-loving man.
"If you wanted to laugh - really, really laugh - that's the person you wanted to be around," she said.
IF YOU GIVE
Donations being collected for the Bussey at the children's schools. Checks should state the money is for the Bussey family.
Greenbrier Elementary School:
5116 Riverwood Parkway; Evans, GA; 30813
Greenbrier Middle School:
5463 Harlem-Grovetown Road; Evans, GA; 30813
Select Specialty Hospital, a long-term and acute care hospital where Mrs. Bussey worked, also has set up an account at Wachovia to collect money. Money can be deposited at any area branch for The Charon Bussey Fund.
"Dear Eugenia, You were always happy and had a smile on your face. You always helped me when I needed it. You will always be remembered." - Laura Thadford to Gena, Greenbrier Elementary
"Samtavius is in our class. We love you and hope you feel better soon." - Mr. B's and Mrs. Bridges' kindergarten class.
"We all miss you and we will never 4-get you."
"You are in our hearts and prayers." - anonymous notes to Monique, Greenbrier Middle
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