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Posted Sunday, January 13, 2008

Hundreds mourn young fire victims

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Mona Zizi, left, is comforted during funeral services for her children, Rebecca and Rooben, at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Roslindale. (Globe staff photo/Wendy Maeda)

By Michael Naughton

Globe Staff

Rebecca and Rooben Zizi were recalled a caring children, dedicated to their church, during an intensely emotional funeral service yesterday for the brother and sister who were killed in a fire just days after Christmas. more stories like this.

About 500 people packed the sparse Tabernacle Baptist Church in Roslindale for more than two wrenching hours of prayers, songs, and eulogizing, mostly in Haitian Creole. The children's father and nearly a half dozen others fainted and had to be helped or carried out. Many mourners wailed, and eyes were red from crying. Some cried aloud, "Why, God?"

"We are like a family," said the Rev. Michel Louis, who is pastor of the Eglise de Dieu De la Pentecote Libre, to which the Zizis belong. "When something happens to one of us . . . we take the thing hard as our own problem."

Rebecca, 9, and her brother Rooben, 11, were killed Dec. 29 in a fire that ripped through their Dorchester apartment on the first floor of a three-decker. Hours before the blaze broke out, the family had celebrated Rebecca's birthday with a cake and gifts. Fire officials said a space heater in a back room ignited the fire.

During the service, the children's parents, Gary and Mona, moaned and called out, "Rooben! Rebecca!" while they reached to touch the small wooden caskets. Gary Zizi fainted and was carried to a back room by six men; he later returned and then attended the burial at Mount Hope Cemetery.

So many mourners came to the church that ushers had to set up extra folding chairs to accommodate the crowd.

During their remarks, clergy said the children, who both attended the Charles H. Taylor Elementary School, were active in their church, and Rooben was known in school to help classmates with their homework.

"They served their church well and they also served their community," said Eno Mondesir, chairman of Haitian-Americans United, who spoke during the service. "They were great students of God."

Gary and Mona Zizi sat with their four surviving children in the first row of the church near the altar where the caskets stood next to photographs of Rebecca and Rooben. A bouquet of pink, yellow, and white flowers was placed on top of each casket. A sign behind them read "Go to Heaven."

The tenor of the service was to help the children's family and friends cope. Louis told mourners to find strength in one another and their faith.

"Don't worry about Rebecca and Rooben," Louis told the mourners. "God knows what he's doing with them."

The family has been staying at a hotel in Boston, paid for by the American Red Cross of Massachusetts Bay, but the plan is to move them to a Dorchester apartment the church helped them find, said Louis.

"They need some furniture," said Louis. "The kids need clothes and shoes for them to go back into school. We don't know who's going to hear our voice or be able to give us some help."

A fund to help the family has been set up in part by the church. Donations can be made to the Zizi Family Fund Trust at any Citizen's Bank branch, Louis said.

Copyright 2008 Globe Newspaper 2008 NY Times Co.

Professor Yves A. Isidor, wehaitians.com offer expression of condolences

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