A memorial for Airyonna

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Arvin Jabot receives a hug from Whitehall Elementary School guidance counselor Halie Brennan after she presented him with a scrapbook containing photos of his daughter, Airyonna, as well as several pieces of her art during a ceremony honoring the fourth grader, who died in a fire at her Whitehall home on May 8. Brennan, elementary school Principal Adriana Strong and other Whitehall Central School District employees put together the ceremony to help the community grieve the 10-year-old's death. Photo by EJ Conzola II

By EJ Conzola II

NYVT Media

The Whitehall 10-year-old who died in a fire at a Maple Street home on May 8 was remembered as “sweet, silly and a kind little girl” who loved animals during a memorial ceremony at her elementary school Tuesday evening.

About 85 people, including family members, friends, classmates, their parents, community members and school officials gathered outside the Whitehall Elementary School in remembrance of Airyonna Jabot, who died when her home was engulfed in flames early on May 8. The crowd held white balloons and blew bubbles to celebrate the life of the fourth-grader and to “mourn the loss of a beloved member of our Railroader family,” elementary school Principal Adriana Strong said in brief remarks at the start of the ceremony.

Strong also encouraged those who came out to “take time to be extra kind to one another” in Airyonna’s memory.

The school district has been working over the past week to help students and faculty members deal with their grief, Strong said. Tuesday’s ceremony was intended to broaden the opportunity to heal the larger community, she said.

The event was initially billed as a balloon release but school officials said they opted to have participants blow bubbles instead because of environmental concerns – although balloons were handed out to those in attendance.

The ceremony also included the presentation of a scrapbook containing photos of Airyonna and samples of her artwork to the girl’s father, Arvin Jabot, who appeared to weep while looking through the book’s contents.

The fire extensively damaged the three-unit multi-family apartment at 5 Maple St. in Whitehall where Airyonna and her family lived in an upstairs apartment. All the residents of the building have been displaced because of the blaze, which was largely confined to the upper floor but the two downstairs units sustained heavy smoke and water damage.

The Whitehall Police Department, which is leading the investigation into the fire with help from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office and the New York State Police, has not released any new information about the cause of the blaze.