Our tragedy: the result of ONE WRONG TURN
On May 25, 2011, our lives changed forever. Though we overslept, the day started out as usual. This day was designated tropical day in Ray Ray's class: the children were to wear “tropical” attire. We dressed her in a cute little flowered dress (a birthday gift from her teacher), and she smiled as if she knew she looked so adorable. We carried Ray Ray to the car and placed her in her carseat. We kissed her and told her we loved her as we buckled her in her seat, and she waved the most mysterious goodbye to us: a wave we had never seen before and one we would never forget. It was the last goodbye we would ever have from our little angel.
Brett drove away in his truck with Ray Ray tucked securely in her carseat. She dozed off into sleep. Then our perpetual nightmare began: for reasons we do not know or understand, Brett drove past the turn that he would normally take to drop Ray Ray off at daycare. A simple LEFT turn, beyond which daycare is only about 300 yards away. He turned RIGHT instead. Why? This is a question that will haunt us forever. Brett continued his drive to work, assuming that our daughter was safely in the hands of her daycare teachers and enjoying tropical day. We carried on with our regular work routine.
A few hours later we met at Brett’s office for a lunch date before I went out of town for a business event. As we drove to lunch, we talked in the car about Ray Ray and how pretty she looked for Tropical day. Suddenly, Brett’s heart skipped two beats and his mind raced chaotically as he tried to understand why he could not remember seeing the reaction from her loving teachers about her cute little Tropical day dress. REALITY hit. Brett’s heart sunk to the bottom of his chest: he couldn’t remember dropping Ray Ray off at daycare that morning! He screamed out loud for me to get us back to his office as fast as possible.
We raced through traffic lights, stop signs, one-way streets, and arrived at Brett’s office in record time. We called the office manager as we drove, instructing her to check the truck. As Brett was awaiting a response from the office manager I called the daycare. When the teacher confirmed she was not there, I hung up and immediately called 911. Simultaneously the office called 911 as well. The nightmare had happened. Ray Ray had been forgotten in the truck for nearly three hours in 90 degree heat.
The office manager took Ray Ray out of the truck, ran cool water over her body, and began rescue efforts---she was still alive, making gurgling sounds; she lost consciousness. I continued aggressive attempts at resuscitation while the office staff stayed on the phone with 911 (the sound of our screams, our sobs, and our compressions on her chest would later be heard on these 911 recordings--reviewing those calls, hearing my own screams of which I was unaware at the time, was one of the hardest things I have ever done).
Our last visions of our living daughter were of her lying on the floor as she lost consciousness and CPR was being performed. Her gaze into mommy and daddy’s eyes one last time will haunt us forever.
One hour and 19 minutes after this nightmare began she was pronounced dead. One phone call to alert us of Ray Ray's absence from school could have saved her life--but no one, neither us nor the daycare center, ever even considered this risk to child passenger safety and the need for a safety net around morning drop-off until we were faced with the tragic loss of our beautiful princess. Shortly after our loss, we collaborated with Ray Ray's daycare teachers, friends, and family to develop "Ray Ray's Pledge", a program aimed at providing a safety net surrounding the morning drop-off time at daycare, a known high-risk time of day for vehicular heatstroke tragedies.