CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- As Talma Isabell coped with the crushing heartache of losing her daughter and five grandchildren in a house fire that killed nine people in all, several dozen people surrounded the woman and her family at church Sunday with their arms raised and their heads bowed in prayer.
Seven children and two adults died in the early Saturday blaze in Charleston, about 11 miles east of the church. Isabell's daughter, 26-year-old Alisha Carter-Camp, had celebrated her birthday at the home the night before her death.
Isabell and several relatives gathered at Maranatha Fellowship Church in St. Albans on Sunday, getting hugs and prayers from fellow worshippers. Just a few hours before, the fire claimed its ninth victim, a 7-year-old boy who died after being removed from life support at a hospital.
Pastor Darren Powell described how he went to the hospital a few hours after the fire to be with Isabell. He said there was little he could do or say, but told her he wanted to let her know the family was in the church's prayers.
"She said, 'Pastor, I'm standing on my foundation, Jesus Christ,'" Powell said. "I'm telling you, I went there trying to be a help and encouragement, and instead, she encouraged me."
Powell then thanked Isabell for her strength, courage and faith.
"In the midst of tragedy and turmoil, you are being a great witness for your king and your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ," Powell said.
Later, Powell quoted Bible verses dealing with challenges and adversity.
Powell also asked parishioners for donations to help with funeral costs. And at the Charleston hotel where Carter-Camp worked at the front desk for six months, hotel administrative assistant Kathy Mullins said donations are being collected that will be given to the family.
The blaze tore through the two-story home hours after the last guest had left Carter-Camp's 26th birthday party.
Jason Bausley said Carter-Camp was his niece and that she rented the home. Her sister, Latasha Jones Isabell, lived there along with the sisters' children.