Thursday, August 30, 2007

Front Page News

I typically do not watch the local news, except to catch the weather. I do generally watch the top stories on the Today Show and also their short story segments. I do read the paper, mainly because I can put it away when I have had enough. The news is just not something that makes me feel good after watching and reading.

The front page news here for the past week has been the woman who left her sleeping two year old daughter in her car for eight hours when the temperature averaged 98 degrees during those hours. Needless to say, the little girl did not survive. It appears the mom did not do this on purpose and this is a tragic accident. From what I have read, she was not the one who usually took the little one to daycare and since the little girl was sleeping, there were no verbal reminders of her presence. The daycare was not open yet, so the mother made a stop along the way for doughnuts for her 7:15 meeting at the school where she is an asst. principal. Then she headed to work and forgot about her daughter being in the back seat of her Mercedes SUV. A co-worker noticed the little girl in the car at about 3:30 in the afternoon. The temperature in the car was estimated at about 140 degrees.The public outrage in this event has been very disturbing to me. Their have been nasty letters to the editor and calls to her school that have bordered on threats. The funeral and burial for the little girl was in an undisclosed location to prevent the public and the media from attending. As a parent, and as any parent who may be reading this blog, I believe all parents have at one time or another been absent minded and done something that could have resulted in a horrific tragedy like this. Who hasn't forgotten to secure an infant carrier to a base, forgotten to put your child's seatbelt on in their carseat, forgotten to put away a poisonous cleaner, forgotten to lock a door so a little one can't escape, forgotten to latch the gate at the top of the stairs and the list goes on. Every one of us has forgotten to do something that could have prevented a tragedy with our children. Thankfully, in most cases, the tragedy does not occur and we feel sick to our stomachs when we realize what could have happened because of our mistake. The mother of this little girl will have to live with the results of her absent mindedness. I think we can all say "I would never forget my child is in the back seat of the car." I bet this mother would be saying the same thing if this tragedy had happened to someone else. I pointed out earlier that she was an asst. principal and that she drove a Mercedes SUV. I do so because these two facts have really added fuel to the anger and outrage of our community. Letters to the editor have included comments along the lines of "it was more important for her to get to her meeting so she could pay for her Mercedes than it was to insure the proper care of her daughter," and "how could a woman who cannot take proper care of her child be entrusted to care for an entire school of children?" She has been called a murderer and a terrible mother. She has been criticized for "not thinking of her daughter once during the day" because if she had "surely she would have remembered that she forgot to drop her off at daycare." I will even admit to having these thoughts myself, not in a bitter, angry way, but more so in the hopes of reassuring myself that "I would never leave my child in a car to die." Again, though, I remind myself of parenting errors I have made that may have resulted in tragedy.

The judicial system is having a hard time with how to handle this. Do they charge her with a felony charge of reckless endangering, which would require a "culpable mental state of recklessness" meaning she had "heedless indifference to the consequences" and "perverse disregard of a known risk." This would imply that she knew she was doing it and didn't care what would happen. I honestly don't believe that is the case. The prosecutor has stated repeatedly that he is certain it was an accident. However, it's up to the courts to decide if and how she should be charged. As stated in the "Opinions" section of the paper today, "she already has a life sentence in a private hell called 'If only...' " Those "if onlys" include "if only the daughter had awakened while she was parking the car," "if only she had left something behind that would have required her to return to the vehicle," "if only she could reverse time and start over..." I feel for this woman and what the remainder of her life will be like, along with the lives of her husband and remaining children. I can only assume a horrific event like this would wreak havoc on even the strongest of families.

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