When kids die
It’s been maybe 12 years since I wrote about Shayna Bryant.
Shayna was tiny, and by the time she died she was painfully emaciated and brutally abused. I was working for the New York Daily News, covering the Bronx County Courthouse, and it fell on me to cover her death.
When crime scene photos were being displayed during pre-trial hearings, I had to walk out of the courtroom. It was the first and only time it happened in my 23 years on the job.
I’ve never forgotten her. Because, on my job, children die, and I have to write about it. It’s never easy. About 15 years ago a friend of mine who was a court officer in the Bronx told me, ‘You must be used to this by now.’ And many have said that to me. The answer is, no, you never get used to it. If it doesn’t affect you, it’s time to call it quits.
Then there was this week.
I happened to draw the weekend shift a week ago today. That’s when Diane Schuler drove the wrong way on the Taconic State Parkway and caused a head-on crash that killed three people from Yonkers and everyone in her minivan except her 5-year-old son, who will, thankfully, recover – at least physically.
Dead in that carnage was Schuler and her 2-year-old daughter, along with her three nieces, the oldest of whom was 8 years old.
How does one cover that? One has to when that is their job.
But it is a unique kind of hell to be immersed in. It’s not nearly the hell of Schuler’s husband, Daniel, who has to raise the only surviving victim of this tragedy with this nightmare always looming over them. It’s not even close to the hell Diane Schuler’s brother, Warren Hance, has to live with after losing all three of his little girls.
Still, it is hellish. And it’s not something you ever get used to.
My prayers are with the Schuler and Hance families tonight, and with the Bastardi and Longo families, whose loved ones also died in that crash one week ago today.
I do recall one conversation I had with a witness to this whole thing last week. She saw it happen, and barely missed being the head-on driver herself. Her name is Katrina, and she had her two kids – a 6 1/2 year old boy and a 4-year-old girl – in the car with her.
When I got home at 1:30 a.m. one week ago, I emailed Katrina and told her one simple thing: Hug your kids especially tight tonight, because you have them.
I did the same with mine.
That’s one hell of a story.