Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Losing a Child

I’d always heard that the worst nightmare for a parent was outliving their child. Although I felt I understood this, since I have three sons I adore, and couldn’t imagine living without them, looking back over the events of October 9, 2011, I know now I never comprehended how deep this loss could be felt. I’m still having trouble sleeping and have nightmares every night over what I went through wondering if I was losing a child of mine.

Let me back up a second here and explain. We live on the east coast of Florida, and if you watched the weather, you know we got slammed by the “No Name Storm” from Friday, October 7th , 2011 to Sunday, October 9th  2011. The wind and rains were worse than some of the hurricanes we’ve suffered through over the last few years. So anyway…it’s Sunday afternoon. The winds have calmed down; the rains have slacked off a bit. It’s about 2:30 in the afternoon and my cell phone rings. I answer it, and it’s my youngest son. I can hear him but what he’s saying comes across garbled, so I asked him to repeat what he said. I hear, “I ran into a ditch, I’m under water, I can’t breathe, the puppies are drowning!”
My first thought was this is a practical joke, so I said, “Are you kidding me?” He answered, “No, I’m submerged, water’s pouring into the car, the puppies are drowning.” I immediately asked where he was, told him to get out of the car, and save the puppies. The phone died. I panicked.

Again, I need to back up a bit. He rescues Pit Bulls, and one of them came up pregnant. She ended up having ten puppies. He was on his way to our local humane society to drop off the puppies that he hadn’t found homes for. He also had the other puppies with forever homes in the car with him…a total of ten, eight week old puppies.

So my husband and I jumped into my SUV and head out to where we thought he was. I pulled onto the road, and all I can see is flooding everywhere. I drive up the road, at a slow pace and I see police cars, and a bunch of cars pulled over, people on the side of the road, when my husband says, “Pull over.” I answered with, “I don’t see him, I don’t see the car.” He said, “I see the car, pull over now.” So I did.

I got out of my vehicle and immediately saw the car I let my son borrow for this errand. About four inches of the top of the car are visible, the rest is submerged. I don’t see my son. All rational thought left my brain at that point. I started to race across the road as my husband held out his arm to stop me and said, “Watch out for traffic.” I vaguely remember looking both ways as I hurried across the road, screaming my son’s name because I didn't see him. I could barely see the car, the back window was shattered, and there were three red bags labeled “Bio Hazardous Materials” sitting behind a police car.
But I still didn’t see my son.

I started looking frantically at everything I could take in. My writer’s mind couldn’t even begin to explain the relief I felt as a mother when I finally laid eyes on my son. I threw myself into his arms, muttering, “Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god!”
Then he recanted his ordeal to me. He was having trouble finding the humane society since he wasn’t familiar with the road, and felt he’d missed it, so he looked for a place to turn around and headed back up the street. He saw a building with a truck parked up by the entrance, and parking stiles. Okay, this is a parking lot, I can turn around here. He slowly pulled into what he thought was a safe area when the front of the car seemed to be pulled down. He tried to back out but in his own words, “It just sucked me down and there was nothing I could do.” He said it was probably seconds, but it seemed like hours, and the interior of the car was quickly filling up with water. He grabbed his cell phone and just hit last call, which was to me, hoping to get some help, or to let somebody know where he was, just in case he didn’t make it. I’m still so thankful that call came to me.

He still doesn’t know how he was able to get the door to the car open. Later on, four men tried to open that same door and couldn't do it. I told him it was pure adrenaline. So going back, he somehow managed to get out with seconds to spare. Then he started pulling puppies out, but the door slammed shut. A young kid that lived across the street showed up. Then someone had a hammer and smashed the back window. My son somehow got back into the car and released the trunk. Again, he said it seemed like hours, but witnesses said it was a couple of minutes or so, and the puppy rescue began.
People grabbed puppies, some were limp, mouth to snoot resuscitation was attempted, others seemed to be okay and were carted off to the back of a truck that the owner had opened up, putting his heater on full blast. Six puppies were rescued, three didn’t make it, and one, we couldn’t find. Way later, after we got done with all the official paperwork, dropped the remaining puppies off at the humane society, made arrangements for cremation of the puppies that didn’t make it, we headed over to the towing company. My husband and son went out to the car to retrieve any valuables, and that’s when they found the missing puppy. It had gotten caught underneath one of the seats and had no chance of survival.

I’m spitting mad for many different reasons. My son almost lost his life, which is bad enough, but he’s also tortured over the fact he was trying to give these puppies a better life and now he feels like he killed the ones that didn’t make it. He’s beating himself up over this and what he could have done to avoid putting these puppies in danger. Then I start to think, this company, the one that ran their business on this property, why didn’t they put something up to let folks unfamiliar with this area know the hazards ahead?
After talking with residents that live on this street, who called in at least twice within twenty-four hours of this accident, about the potential danger to motorists, and were told nothing could be done, I knew the government would be protecting their own. Why else would they refuse to post something that would alert drivers to the hazards ahead?

The emergency personnel were called out to the scene and told there may be deaths. It was only after they got there they realized the deaths were animal and not human, and all of a sudden it became a Band-Aid fix. The county didn’t want this event to hit the news and cordoned the area off to everyone. Later on that evening they placed a drainage hose in the area in order to get rid of the excess water.
We were given footage by a local television station, of the property owner coming out, after all the commotion had died down, to survey his parking lot. From his body language, it was obvious he knew the drainage ditch in front of his property, which was completely underwater to the unknowing driver, was something he knew about. Did he ever come forward? No. Did he ever take responsibility? No.

We contacted a lawyer, but as usual, they circled the wagons, and we were told we had no suit. So not only did my son and I have to deal with his near death, and the death of the puppies that weren’t saved, I had to completely write off the vehicle I’d kept as a back-up for my sons to use. Thank you county government.


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