At funeral, grief for 3 young victims of carjack collision

TOM GRALISH / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Hundreds filled North Philadelphia Seventh-day Adventist Church yesterday to mourn the three children who were killed on July 25.
TOM GRALISH / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Hundreds filled North Philadelphia Seventh-day Adventist Church yesterday to mourn the three children who were killed on July 25.
Posted: August 06, 2014

ON A SUMMER day like yesterday - sunny, blue skies, not too hot - Joseph Reed and his brother, Terrance Moore, could have been outside riding their bicycles.

Or maybe Joseph, 9, and Terrance, 7, could have stayed indoors, their laughter echoing through their home while they battled one another on an Xbox game or mimicked the catapulting moves of their favorite wrestlers.

Either way, big sister Keiearra Williams, 15, would have been nearby, keeping an eye on her "Joe-Joe" and "Lil' Terrance."

Instead, the three siblings were quiet and still in the North Philadelphia Seventh-day Adventist Church, laid out side-by-side in matching white caskets rimmed with gold.

Mourners by the hundreds filed into the church at 15th and Oxford streets, their sobs and guttural moans drowning out the verses of Scripture that a preacher mouthed into a microphone.

The grief was powerful enough to buckle one man's knees, to send a tearful young woman fleeing from the row of caskets as she shrieked, "It's not real! It's not real!"

But this nightmare was real, thanks to two young men who ruined the lives of countless people in North Philadelphia on July 25, according to authorities.

They started by allegedly carjacking and sexually assaulting a real-estate agent at 6th and Cambria streets, then barreling through the neighborhood in her Toyota 4Runner.

The speeding SUV blew a tire near Germantown and Allegheny avenues and jumped a curb. It slammed into a small stand where Keiearra, Joseph and Terrance were selling fruit with their mother, Keisha Williams, to raise money for the Eagles Wings Evangelistic Church.

The children didn't stand a chance. Their mother, critically injured, is still at Temple University Hospital. A church employee said yesterday that Williams has been in a medically induced coma.

Two men, Cornelius Crawford, 24, and Jonathan Rosa, 19, have been charged with three counts of second-degree murder and a host of other felonies. They face a preliminary hearing on Aug. 13.

Church Elder William Taliaferro was given the task of offering a prayer of comfort not long after the lids on the three coffins were lowered, hiding from view the peaceful faces of Joseph, Terrance and Keiearra.

Taliaferro acknowledged the enormity of the tragedy in front of him. "People have been known to say that time heals all wounds," he said, "but they don't know what they are talking about."

Mayor Nutter and District Attorney Seth Williams were among a handful of local pols who attended the funeral, which was paid for by NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley.

"It makes no sense to us right now," Williams said during his turn at the church podium. "But those of us who believe in a God know these three angels are in a better place."

During the service, Joseph was recalled as a cheerful kid who was going into fourth grade at Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary School. Terrance was described as a "precious baby boy" who loved cartoons, playing basketball and reading.

Herman Douglas, the dean of students at Mary McLeod, taught Keiearra when she was a sixth-grader at the school. She graduated in June.

"Keiearra was an extremely sweet child [with] extremely strong character," he said, after the funeral ended and the three siblings were taken to Fernwood Cemetery to be buried.

"She was highly involved. Academically, she was extremely strong in mathematics and also reading."

Williams walked her kids to school every morning "just to make sure they were safe," Douglas said.

The bulk of the funeral service was centered around rousing spiritual songs and messages of hope and redemption.

Keith Goodman Sr., pastor of North Philadelphia Seventh-day Adventist Church, noted that the three children had brought many people together, and likely would inspire others to do good work.

But there was no escape from the grief, not on a day when three little caskets were carried out into the sunlight.

On Twitter: @dgambacorta

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