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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 itĀ 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 hellĀ 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.

This entry was posted on Monday, August 3rd, 2009 at 9:00 pm by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
Category: Parenting




About this blog
Parents’ Place is a hangout for openly discussing the A’s to Z’s of raising a child in the Lower Hudson Valley. From deciding when to stop using a binky to when to let your teenager take driving lessons, Parents’ Place is here to let us all vent, share, and most of all, learn from each other.
Leading the conversation are Julie Moran Alterio, a business reporter and mom of a toddler, Jorge Fitz-Gibbon, a reporter and single father with joint custody of a 9-year-old son, and Len Maniace, a reporter and father of two sons.


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About the authors
Julie Moran AlterioJulie Moran AlterioJulie Moran Alterio, her husband and baby girl — “Pumpkin” — share their Northern Westchester home with three iPods and more colorful plastic toys than seems necessary to entertain one tiny human. READ MORE
Jorge Fitz-GibbonJorge Fitz-GibbonJorge Fitz-Gibbon has been a journalist for more than 20 years and a father for nine. READ MORE
Jane LernerJane LernerJane Lerner covers health and hospitals for The Journal News in Rockland, where she lives with her husband and two children. READ MORE
Len Maniace.jpgLen ManiaceLen Maniace is a reporter and father of two sons. READ MORE