BALTIMORE, Md. — Tragedy is common in the area around Union Square Park, but as we walk, Robert Giroux sees the beauty that has kept him and his family here for so long.
“This is the West Side of Baltimore,” he said. “Well we chose to live over here because it’s a vibrant community and it’s a very wonderful place to live when you look around actually.”
On any given night in this neighborhood you’re just as likely to walk by a sex worker as you are to see the dim of an antique lamp in the window of a doctor or lawyer.
“Understanding both the Socioeconomic and race mix that we have in this neighborhood and the vibrant nature of it and the fact that a lot of artists live here,” said Giroux. “A lot of professionals live here at the same time.”
It’s on these rain-soaked streets that the Giroux family met Carrie McFadden. Rob and his wife live across the street from Robert’s brother John.
John grew close to Carrie, helping her with things like clothing, small lunches, and phones. Working the corners to make money to feed her addiction is what struck up the first conversation with the Giroux’s.
They gave her $50 and didn’t want any “favors”, instead they just wanted her to take the night off. Years later, Carrie had become a friend to the family, and they started to get to know her story.
A story that sadly has come to an end.
“You could see the light burning in her and she did not want to be where she was,” Robert said. “Her situation literally went from being in the top of her class here in Baltimore when she graduated, to dying here close to 30-years-old at 29.”
Just when their friend’s life seemed to be turning around, they heard the sirens, smelled the smoke, and then heard the news.
A few months from her 30th birthday, Carrie McFadden was the victim of a fire at an abandoned row home in the 300 block of South Stricker Street, just a few blocks from where the Giroux's live.
Rob showed us the burnt up row home right across the street from where Carrie died three days earlier.
“That was the house she lived in—she got out of that one.”
When John saw Carrie in the first week of February at Fayette Health and Rehabilitation Center she looked like she was healthy.
She was gaining weight and she was communicating and talking about her future. Rob said his brother brought her a cell phone that day, she was ecstatic she could again be connected to the world.
“She felt much better then she had before and was thinking about what a great counselor she would make and how she could help people.”
Her last text to John said “Hey John. Just checking up on you. Thank you for everything. Love ya talk to you soon”.
The Giroux family thought their longtime friend was finally turning her life around.
“She had an assigned social worker,” Robert said. “We are unsure of what transpired at the rehabilitation center that compelled her to leave and crawl into an abandoned apartment on 300 Stricker Street, which is literally blocks away from this facility.”
Robert’s wife Pat Dennis Giroux is an artist. She always saw a special glow in Carrie.
For years she worked at a center on Pratt Street giving women shelter, supplies and teaching them how to find their own artistic vision.
“Just living here has been very very powerful,” said Pat. “I am 32 years and 6 months sober not that I’m counting.”
Robert and Pat have been sober from drugs and alcohol for over 30 years. They make sure to never forget that experience and use it to help others.
Robert and Pat’s son and John always made time for Carrie.
“The most important thing to do is to acknowledge them as people,” Pat said.
All of those connections—their journey together to get Carrie better—cut short right when it seemed to be hitting her stride.
“Even in her worst of conditions she had a certain spark and energy to her that was in a sense alluring,” Rob said.
Rob and his family are also helping other members of the community.
Never forgetting the path to healing that was cut short by fire, but not letting it stop their journey to give other lost souls the warm embrace of a friend.