I’m staring at a picture of a little boy with sandy blond hair clutching a book. He has a small smile on his face and is wearing jeans and a polo shirt — an outfit that makes him look older than his mere 22 months.
He could be my boy, but he’s not. He’s another mother’s boy. And instead of planning a birthday party this summer, she’s now planning a funeral.
My heart aches for her.
She must be wondering what we’re all so desperate to know. How can anyone, especially a parent, forget a child is still in the back seat? Didn’t the father even once think about his son during the seven hours police say he spent on the job before heading home and realizing the child was there? Why did nobody else see there was a child in the back seat? I don’t want to consider the idea maybe somebody did, yet did nothing.
Early reports said the man dropped off another child at day care that morning. If both children attend the same child care center, why didn’t anyone there ask him where the other child was?
I’m not holding the day care center responsible — the fault is all on the father, and he’s going to live with this for the rest of his life — but I think of all the teachers and children throughout my son’s day care who always call him by name and tell him hi. Did really nobody at all notice something was amiss before 4 p.m.?
But mostly, I just want to do what moms do and hug the other mother’s pain and hurt away.
Instead, I hugged my own 22-month-old son this morning, relishing the vice-like bear hold around my neck he’s just learned to do when I ask him, “Can I have a hug?”
It’s the type of hug that just radiates love, and one I wanted so badly I was tempted to wake him up when I got home last night after spending a majority of my shift reporting what happened to this other mother’s boy. But at 2 a.m., hugs are usually not high on my son’s priority list. So I settled for the one I got this morning.
While going through our normal breakfast routine, I couldn’t help but wonder if my son and the other mother’s son were born in the same hospital. Were they even there at the same time? Have we ever crossed paths? Would they have gone to the same school together? Been friends?
So many questions. And right now, too few answers.
It’s that inquisitive nature, I think, that led me to becoming a journalist. I remember learning in the first grade that any good story requires the “Five Ws” and an “H”: Who, What, Where, When, Why and How.
It wasn’t hard to cover most of those questions last night, but trying to set aside my personal feelings when coming to “Why?” and “How?” is where I struggled the most. Compartmentalizing those emotions is a hard lesson I’ve learned is necessary to stay in this business. And I’ve had to develop that skill fast and use it too often. I think of all the school shootings I’ve covered in my short career, and it’s just a grim reality covering the news.
Yet, I don’t want to be so detached from these tragedies that there’s no life in the words I’m writing. If I don’t care, then why should anyone who’s reading the newspaper?
So I channeled those feelings Wednesday into looking into how to prevent more deaths like this from happening, and I want to share that information with as many people as possible.
After getting home last night, I posted the article on Facebook, not to brag about the story I co-wrote, but to reach as many parents as I can to get them in the habit of “check, and then check again.”
When I dropped my son off at day care today, I asked if they’d put a sign up reminding parents to double check their cars. They are now asking to post my article at their front desk.
Reg Griffin with Bright from the Start, who I quoted in Thursday’s article, provided me with two websites regarding children, heatstroke and what his agency is doing to educate parents and other caregivers about the dangers of leaving kids in cars:
www.decal.ga.gov/ChildCare Services/TransportationNews Conference.aspx
Please share those links with anyone you know who has a child. Eight preventable deaths of Georgia children in four years is inexcusable. I don’t want to write about your child as number nine.