LITTLE ROCK (KATV) — The Arkansas Department of Correction remembered the "Wrightsville 21" Thursday by dedicating a memorial site to the 21 lives lost in a fire decades ago.
Before it was the Wrightsville Unit, the site was a lockup for minors called the Arkansas Negro Boys Industrial School. On the night of March 5, 1959, a fire mysteriously broke out, killing 21 boys between the ages of 13 and 17.
But their memories are still alive in the hearts of their loved ones, who were among those in attendance Thursday.
"That's why we're here. To do this dedication to them after 60 years," said Malvestin Locke and Evergene Avent, sisters of 16-year-old Willie C. Horner.
Horner was one of the boys who died in the fire.
"Got the news that the kids were burned to death and our brother was included in that," Avent said. "It was a very devastating feeling. Something nobody could even believe, after you think about how it was done and how it happened."
Avent says the pain of losing her brother still hurts to this day.
"They had no way of being able to get out of a situation like that. That was just devastating, to even think about it," she added.
The memorial honoring the boys includes a landscaped sitting area at the entrance of the Wrightsville Unit, along with a plaque with all the boys' names etched into it.
You can read more about this story here.