NEW ORLEANS, La. - Eyewitness News is learning more about the 8-year-old twin sisters killed in last weekend's early morning house fire in Gretna. The two spent several years at Lighthouse Louisiana, an organization that helps those with disabilities succeed.
Officials with the organization say the family moved from Honduras to New Orleans so Estefania and Fernanda, who were blind, would have more resources available to them. Lighthouse Louisiana helped the family find a school for the girls and worked with them ever since.
“They came here so the children would have an opportunity to learn blindness skills," said Vice President of Vision Rehab Services, Jenice Heck. "So that’s what we’ve been doing with them, working with them on being independent and how to do things for themselves with blindness.”
Through arts and crafts and fun day trips, their time at Lighthouse Louisiana was filled with adventure. Even for staff, who admired the girls' curiosity for life.
“They were very, very eager to explore, they loved finger painting and baking," said Orientation and Mobility instructor, Eric Mills.
“Estefania and Fernanda reminded me constantly to just enjoy life and not let my blindness hold me back, because things are still exciting and fun to explore," said Heck.
That time came to a tragic end Sunday.
“I received a text and I couldn’t believe it," said Mills through tears.
A fire broke out in the kitchen of the family's home in Gretna. The girls' grandmother and two cousins were able to escape, but the girls couldn't and both died in the fire.
“I have been holding it and fighting it and it’s hard to believe they’re gone," said Mills.
“My heart breaks for the family," said Heck. “These children were so precious and had so much love to give and so much life to live.”
The news hit hard for those at Lighthouse Louisiana, especially because the twins had become family.
“It's heartbreaking to think we won’t see them again," said Heck.
As staff mourn the deaths of these two girls, they say they've been reflecting on the memories, moments they'll always remember.
"I used to try and speak Spanish and they would laugh at how I'd destroy a word," reflected Mills. "And 'precioso' 'precioso' was one of the words I'd try to share which is 'precious' and they are precious and we will miss them so much."
The family didn't have renters insurance and is struggling to find the funds necessary to bury their daughters. There are two ways you can help this family. Lighthouse Louisiana says you can call any Gulf Coast Bank and say you want to make a donation to the Alvarez Family.
Broadmoor Community Church is also collecting donations for the family. In addition to clothes, toiletries, etc., you can mail a check with 'Alvarez family' in the memo, to 2021 S. Dupre Street, New Orleans, 70125.
Lighthouse Louisiana encourages anyone with questions or who may need help to call them at 504-899-4501 ext.262. More information is also available on their website, www.LighthouseLouisiana.org