Fire Deaths Leave Community Shaken at Yet Another Tragedy

By Dave Schlenker & Joe Callahan Ocala Star-Banner Published: Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at 7:37 a.m. Last Modified: Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at 7:37 a.m. CITRA | Two teen boys wept Tuesday as they sat with a grief counselor at a metal table in a North Marion Middle School courtyard. The roadside memorials of James “Kyle” Vanwagner and Brandon Michael Cordwin are shown at the intersection of County Road 329 west of Northeast 30th Court on Tuesday. The boys were classmates of eighth-grader Joseph Jordan, 15. They weren’t the only ones weeping on this tragic day: Of five Jordan-family children when fire consumed their house Monday night, three attended the school. They also included Austin, 13; Shyanne, 12; William Jr., 8; and Trenity, 6. Outside on the school marquee, North Marion Middle secretary Torria Faison made sure the family knew they were thinking of them. “Our prayers are with Joseph & Austin & Shyanne Jordan,” the sign said. Losing five children in one fire is unimaginable for most people, for most communities, and this is just the latest tragedy of lost youth for Citra, a small town about 15 miles north of Ocala, and other small communities in northern Marion County. In January, North Marion High School seniors Niko Malidelis and Kyle James were killed when their car struck a dump truck on a quiet country road off U.S. 441 north of Ocala. Seven miles north of there, a roadside memorial adorned with roses and happy snapshots honors NMHS graduates Kyle Van Wagner and Brandon Cordwin, who died in a high-speed chase near their alma mater last year. Six more miles to the north, off U.S. 301 in Citra, an angel statue, mesh butterflies and a “Colts” megaphone cradle the roadside memorial for Margay Schee, the North Marion Middle School student who was killed in 2008 when a semi-trailer smashed into the back of her stopped school bus. On Tuesday, this jarring trail of loss became longer and more disturbing. From Margay’s colorful roadside memorial, you could clearly see a news helicopter circling a few miles to the north, over the charred remains of the Jordan house. Under that circling helicopter, stunned Citra residents jostled for space among a crush of media Tuesday as investigators sifted through the remains. Some residents could barely speak through tears. Some stood numb and shaken. Some just stared expressionless at two white geese — apparently pets of the Jordan family — roaming inside the yellow police tape. And some were simply angry. This town, this small corner of a county larger than Rhode Island, has seen far too much tragedy in recent years, particularly among its youth. “It’s like the devil’s lurking behind us … The devil does not discriminate, and he’s been picking on this area,” said Orange Lake resident Warren Jamerson. “This is a lot for a small town.” Consider this: Since the January 2008, five-victim crash on the Greystone airstrip, 13 northeast Marion County residents, ages 6 to 20, have died in accidents, including Monday’s fire. Seven were NMHS students or recent graduates, four were NMMS students, one went to Sparr Elementary School and one went to Anthony Elementary School. And those were just the high-profile cases, Jamerson said. His 44-year-old brother, Robert, was shot to death in an Orange Lake home invasion last year. With TV news crews buzzing about them, Jamerson and other longtime northeast Marion residents recalled local tragedies, youth deaths and crime. Thomas Harris, 23, of Reddick, was killed last year in a car crash. A Citra boy was killed years ago on a motorcycle, they said. A teenager recently died of a drug overdose. There were more stories, but names and details had faded with time. Jamerson contends there are so many tragedies — most preventable — in northeast Marion County that he fears people forget them too easily. “But this,” he said, nodding toward the charred remains, “is the worst one so far.” “Tragic,” added 38-year Citra resident Chuck Dubois. Leaning against a truck, he said northeast Marion is a small region where everybody knows — or knows of — everybody. His granddaughter was in the same class as one of the victims. Dubois and his wife, Maryann, heard about the fire early Tuesday morning. “My wife said, ‘Here we go again,’ ” Dubois said, shaking his head. He and Jamerson lament the needless loss of life that plagues that area and Marion County as a whole. But they said they hope the horror of this incident will prod locals to greater callings. As if preaching from a pulpit, Jamerson said he wants people to remember victims longer and provide more community education on fire safety, driver safety and the dangers of alcohol and drugs. And it’s critical to rally around the victims’ family, they said. J.R. Martinez, manager of The Orange Shop in Citra, agreed. He noted that family support is how a small community gets through this and other tragedies. “Everybody will gather around them,” Martinez said, just as the community rallied around the Schee family in many ways. “It’s been a hard five or six years now.

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