Local

Young daughters lose mom to cancer, family home in North Braddock fire weeks apart

NORTH BRADDOCK, Pa. — Moving forward is what a local woman says she has no choice but to do after experiencing so much tragedy. She lost her mom to breast cancer in October. Now, she’s temporarily in a wheelchair from a car crash and just this past Sunday, her family’s home burned to the ground.

“It’s sentimental,” Al’aia Brown tells Channel 11 when speaking about her home. “It brings a lot of memories.”

It’s the house where Brown’s baby sister was born, creating their family of three. And the same house her mom wanted to come home to, to pass away peacefully in October, after fighting breast cancer for three years.

“Throughout her whole fight, I started to take on her strength,” Al’aia said. “She made me the strong woman I am today.”

But Sunday night, a violent fire in North Braddock spread from a garage to several homes on Grandview Avenue, engulfing everything in its path, including the Brown’s home. Al’aia was in the process of moving back to her mom’s house. She was asleep at her apartment, resting after a car crash landed her in the hospital. She had surgery to put rods in her broken femur. As the fire was spreading, she couldn’t even run into her house, so instead her boyfriend did, rescuing their family dog and getting her mom’s ashes and her little sister’s teddy bear programmed with her mom’s voice.

“That’s one thing she has with her at all times that helps her remind herself of our mom,” Al’aia said.

And even in all that fire, smoke and water, the living room where her mom passed away was untouched.

“It’s like miracles on top of miracles in that house,” Brown added.

The Allegheny County Fire Marshal’s office will determine how that fire started, but for now, Al’aia is in the process of legally adopting her 7-year-old sister. She doesn’t ask ‘why me?’ or dwell. She’s using her mom’s fighting spirit to keep going.

“I think it was just time for a new start and moving forward and not looking back,” Brown added.

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