HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) – A tree that has become a growing memorial for 2-year-old Noah Tomlin caught on fire Sunday night.
This news comes just a couple days after police confirmed it was in fact Noah’s body that was found a week earlier at the Hampton NASA Steam Plant. The toddler’s mother, Julia Tomlin, was arrested on June 28 and charged with three counts of felony child neglect.
People began leaving items and gathering at the tree near Buckroe Beach just days after Noah went missing in June.
Sunday night, the tree went up in flames. The fire department says it appears the fire was not intentionally set.
Heartbroken community members returned to the tree on Monday to clean up the charred area and items.
One day the tree symbolizing love and support was full of Teddy bears and flowers — and the next it was in ashes.
“I was pretty upset, I was pretty upset,” said Noah’s paternal grandmother Cindy Jones in response to finding it charred on Monday.
Cindy has custody of Noah’s 3 older siblings, and she says this just makes it harder for them.
“The tree was, is a beautiful symbol of the community coming together, for when Noah first went missing,” she said.
The memorial in ruins is just one part of how they’ve been feeling since Noah went missing.
“We’re going one day at a time. We’re trying to piece together everything,” said Cindy.
She keeps the memories of her grandson close to her heart. “Quiet, loving, cute, blue eyes like crazy,” she described.
Police and fire officials say the fire does not look intentional, and may have started in another way.
“If you look at the number of candles surrounding this particular one, you look at the amount of people smoking in the area,” said Hampton Fire and Rescue PIO Anthony Chittum.
Out of the ashes comes light, as community members work to rebuild what was lost
All the while, Cindy and her family wait for answers to the bigger questions.
“I’m saving my questions for court, I’m pretty sure that everything that needs to be answered will be answered,” Cindy said.
There will be a public memorial service for Noah on July 27 at the memorial tree in Hampton starting at 7:30.