Woman's heartbreaking tribute tattoo after family dies in a fire

The photo of Anniston's wall artwork Cortes received from her sister and her tribute tattoo.
ANDREA CORTES

The photo of Anniston's wall artwork Cortes received from her sister and her tribute tattoo.

A grieving US aunty has found some peace in a tribute tattoo honouring her nieces, sister and brother-in-law, killed in a house fire.

Andrea Cortes' "whole life fell apart" when she watched her sister's house engulfed in flames killing Michelle and Michael Speer and their four girls, Elli, 11, Adilynn, 7, Emma, 5, and Anniston, 2. She tried desperately to save them, but couldn't get past the thick smoke.

According to WOWT-TV the fire was caused by embers from a fireplace with the preliminary autopsy report indicating the cause of death in all six was smoke inhalation.

Cortes' four nieces, Elli (11), Adilynn (7), Emma (5), and Anniston (2).
ANDREA CORTES

Cortes' four nieces, Elli (11), Adilynn (7), Emma (5), and Anniston (2).

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The Nebraskan college student had been staying in a cottage house, on her sister's farm property, when the tragedy occurred and has been struggling with her grief ever since.

"Nobody ever realises that something like this could happen to them," she told TODAY Parents.

"Our family has always been super close. My sister was my best friend and my rock, and she and Mike allowed me to be part of raising my nieces – I had a special bond with each of them."

Andrea decided to get the girls' handwriting and drawings tattooed on her body to keep them close.

"To me, tattoos are an expression of your life and your passions, and it just felt right to have them on my body permanently," she said.

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"I have the three oldest girls' names in their handwriting from schoolwork that I had the tattoo artist trace and place on my arm.

"To me, it's a piece of them with me and if it wasn't in their handwriting, it would feel less personal."

As her youngest niece was only two, she hadn't learned to write yet. So Andrea found an email her sister had sent her with a picture of her niece standing next to the wall she had just drawn with texta all over.

So she asked the tattoo artist to trace the drawing onto her skin.

"I think it has helped me with the healing process to have these tattoos on my arm – I get to tell their story, share my memories with people, and keep them alive in a sense," she explained.

"I struggle daily trying to be strong and continuing to live the best life I can while dealing with such a huge hole in it, so by having them on my arm, I get the strength to continue with my day."

 - essentialkids.com.au

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