He was 7 years old, an age where days are filled with school lessons and baseball practice.
Christopher Miller was fast asleep, upstairs with his 12-year-old brother, Matthew, in their family’s attached home in East Elmhurst.
Downstairs, two family friends visiting from out of town decided to kindle a fire to keep warm and fell asleep.
On New Year’s Day at 9 a.m., the two visitors, Christopher and Matthew woke up to a holiday inferno as Christmas decorations and home furnishings acted as a fuse, spreading the fire throughout the home.
“It was all black smoke,” one neighbor said. “Just tons of smoke coming out of the house. You couldn’t see flames, only smoke.”
According to reports, the out-of-towners possibly tried to extinguish the flames themselves but it was no use.
The majority of fire deaths are caused by smoke inhalation, not the actual flames, and since the house on 90th Street had no smoke detectors, the inhabitants probably had been breathing in smoke for a little while before waking up.
Christopher and his brother were trying to make it to the door so they could get out of the house. They were breathing in the black smoke, limiting their oxygen supply and clogging their lungs.
Christopher made it to the stairs before he was overcome with smoke and collapsed, according to the FDNY.
His brother Matthew had a bit more luck, narrowly escaping with the two family friends and his grandfather, who was in the basement. He had second-degree burns on his hands and neck and was transported to Cornell Medical Center, where he was in stable condition.
Matthew and Christopher’s mother was not home when the flames swallowed up the interior of her home.
Almost a week later, the smell of smoke still cling to the air surrounding the boarded-up house. Black smudges stain the outside of windows and ripped caution tape still hangs on the iron and brick fence.
In front, a shrine dedicated to Christopher lined the gates. His #2 Elmhurst Snowflake baseball jersey fluttered in the wind next to a Yankees foam finger, flowers, Beanie Babies and a poem written by Astrid Sermiento:
“You had to go,
and yet I still can’t comprehend,
I imagine your little face still,
and the day that we first met,
I can’t fathom the words,
to describe the sadness,
the pain lingers on, as I pray in silence”
“They were good kids and a good family,” the neighbor said. “They used to play outside all the time and never caused any problems.”
A memorial was held at the Blessed Sacrament Church in Jackson Heights on Tuesday for family and friends to honor Christopher.