Elijah Grays stood in the cold this morning, holding a box of photos of his children, occasionally bringing one close to his face so his failing eyes could see.
There was Elijah, his namesake, in a graduation gown. And Sallie, a new mom.
And now they were gone, along with another daughter, two grandchildren, his daughter’s boyfriend and a family friend. All killed in a fire on the day they were to celebrate Grays’ 49th birthday.
"I just lost a whole lot," Grays said, tears streaming down his face. "I’m just really hurt."
Grays said he had been looking forward to Sunday. All his kids and grandchildren were going to celebrate his birthday with cake. But a fire raced through their home early in the morning, and now Grays was faced with having to go to the morgue and identify them.
"I don’t know if I can even see my kids," he said outside the motel where the rest of his family was taken after the fire at 3034 S. 48th Court in Cicero.
His daughter and the children were found dead in the attic of the home, their only means of escape — a back stairwell — blocked by flames.
"I wish I could have broke a hole in the wall," Grays said, crying.