HOBART | A crowd of people came together Wednesday at the edge of a pit in Hobart to mourn two young brothers who died there Saturday.
Donel Smith, 9, and Terrion Smith, 8, of Gary's Glen Park neighborhood, drowned in water that had pooled in the pit on a property in the 400 block of Missouri Street in Hobart where excavation work was being done. The pit is just blocks away from the boys' home.
Family and friends surrounded the boys' parents as they stood a few feet away from where the dirt met sand that was placed in the expansive hole Monday.
Pastor Stilman Murph and Co-Pastor Dorothy Murph, of Shining Star Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago, led the group in The Lord's Prayer.
As those in the group repeated the verses, their voices rose over the roar of nearby Interstate 65.
The boys' mother, Tatiana Smith, wept as the group sang "Take Me To The King."
As she walked among the crowd of mourners headed to the vigil, family friend Pamela Carter wore a shirt memorializing the boys' grandmother Cei Cei Smith, who died in 2010 from leukemia.
Carter said she and Cei Cei Smith moved to the neighborhood from Chicago Heights around 2000, and their children grew up together.
Cei Cei Smith was survived by 13 of her 15 children and seven were younger than 18 when she died, friends and family said.
Tatiana Smith initially took in six of her siblings, said Tara Rogers, the boys' aunt.
Carter said the family worked hard so none of the children would have to go into foster care. The family pulled together and Donel and Terrion were doing well in school before their tragic deaths, she said.
"It's remarkable," she said. "This is a story of survival."
Teacher Elizabeth Renta said more than $2,000 has been donated to the family through a fund at Chase Bank. Donations may be made to the Smith Children of Gary, Ind., Memorial Fund at any Chase Bank branch.
The family plans to use the money to pay for the boys' funeral expenses.
Visitation for the boys is set for July 3 at Manuel Memorial Funeral Home, 421 W. Fifth Ave., Gary. A church service and burial are slated for July 5.
As mourners left the vigil, three Hobart officers stood near a rope cordoning off the private property. The owner has been excavating the parcel since last year, a neighbor said.
Hobart police still are investigating the boys' deaths.