On Sunday, a community in Dayton, Ohio, held a balloon release to remember 40-year-old Nishelle Harris-Miles.
“The children will be mostly affected; they no longer have a mother,” said family friend Will Crusoe.
Blue, white and silver balloons filled the Dayton sky says after a birthday trip turned deadly as Hurricane Ian engulfed Florida, including Harris-Miles’ hotel room. The storm trapped the birthday group inside, and the roof eventually collapsed, killing Harris-Miles.
Friends and family are now honoring her memory.
“When they were rescued, she was still there and died in one of the young ladies’ arms, so imagine what that lady is going through right now. She needs prayers right now,” said Crusoe.
Cousins Erica Maston and Adoria Lloid, referring to Harris-Miles, said, “Nene: had a fiery personality, but a soul that will never be replaced in the Dayton community.”
“Nene was caring, loving, she would go off, but at the end of the day will still have a smile on her face and life of the party,” said Lloid. “They will never be the same after seeing what they’ve been through.”
Harris-Miles’ balloon release was accompanied by a call for unity.
“Communities need to come together — black, white, green, yellow, whatever color they may be. At times like this is when family and people come together,” said Crusoe.
Hurricane Ian carved a path of destruction from Florida to the Carolinas, with at least 68 people confirmed dead: 61 in Florida, four in North Carolina and three in Cuba.
With the death toll rising, Deanne Criswell, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said the federal government was ready to help in a huge way, focusing first on victims in Florida, which took the brunt of one of the strongest storms to make landfall in the United States.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.