The Hurt Locker: Parents Who Forget Their Children In Hot CarsSerge Bielanko
Well, they got another one.
Down in Kentucky last week, the long arm of the law reached out and plucked themselves a bad seed. Murderer? Nahhh. Jewel thief? Nope. Chop shop boss? Shoplifter? Someone stealing a little cable TV? Nope nope nope.
No, the police in the town of London nabbed themselves one of these increasingly common and increasingly troubling sorts whose crime is arguably of worse than any of those other things.
What I’m talking about people is a seemingly healthy, adept, and mentally stable 31 year old father just up and forgetting his two year old son in a hot car. According to a report in the International Business Times the man told police that he forgot to take his boy to daycare that morning. He drove straight to his job instead, getting out and leaving the boy to fend for himself, strapped in a car seat, in temps that topped 100 degrees.
Luckily, the boy survived. He was found in time, quite red in the face and obviously distressed, but expected to physically recover.
Ugh. Where are the Jesse James’s and the Billy The Kid’s when you need them?
Whatever happened to good old fashion train robbers, to those six-gun shooters of yesteryear, to the boys who say ‘Morning Ma’am. You smell real pretty today! Now, would you mind filling up this here burlap sack with gold nuggets and silver chips? Thankyakindly!”
I miss those days. I miss 19th century crime.
People didn’t “forget” their kids in the horse buggy.
They might have eaten them to survive in the wilderness, but I dare you to find me one case of leaving the kid in the cart.
So: these people. Who are they? Who are these parents of our modern age who manage to do something so scatter-brained, something so grotesquely negligent, so hard to imagine; are they actually criminals?
Or is there a chance that they honestly made a major-league goof?
I try and be an empathetic guy. I try and read the newspapers and watch my CNN with an open mind, constantly challenging myself to challenge myself. Sure, like a lot of dads, my initial immediate reaction to a story like this Kentucky tale of horror is to scream at my morning TV, flecks of cheese danish and lukewarm coffee spackeling the screen, and holler out loud,” HANG THE BASTARD FROM THE HIGHEST ELM!”
But, that’s when I at least try to take the time to consider all the possible angles in a story like this.
Because, it’s just so damn hard to really imagine what the hell happened.
I’m not all that original here, in writing about this.
A few years ago, a Washington Post staff writer named Gene Weingarten wrote a riveting feature called Fatal Distraction: Forgetting a Child in the Backseat of a Car Is a Horrifying Mistake. Is It a Crime? in which he plunged deep into the difficult and complicated questions that surround these cases.
The article won a Pulitzer Prize; you only need to slide down through the first few paragraphs to understand why.
His opening account of a middle-aged Virginia man being tried for the horrific “forgotten-in-the-car” death of his toddler son demands readers to ride a runaway roller-coaster of conflicted emotion. Everyone is a victim, we are reminded. Everyone’s life here seems to be destroyed.
What Mr. Weingarten does is what we all ought to do when it comes to swallowing some of the humungous bitter pills that come along with just plain living. And yet, while thinking about these tragedies, or in the more fortunate Kentucky case, these near tragedies, I find myself constantly shifting from the empathetical to the more practical.
This could have been so easily avoided, I tell myself.
A kid didn’t have to be tortured here. And no matter how you choose to look at it, the horribly slow demise that comes from dying strapped up and locked inside a box of sweltering heat is torturous. I’m sorry, it just is.
It seems, even after reading such a though-provoking piece as Mr. Weingarten’s, that a part of me wants to have mercy on these parents who are already suffering so greatly by their own hand. And a part of me wants to make sure they never forget a damn thing in the free world again.
Summer is the magic season, but like anything else, it has it’s dark side too.
Every summertime has it’s share of tragedies along with all the good stuff. But that makes perfect sense, I guess. People are out there swimming and walking around in the woods and up and down the mountains, doing some rock climbing, some Jet Skiing, four-wheeling, horseback riding, snorkeling, or whatever. We’ll be speeding around in some boats, the wind in our hair and the salt on our lip.
Death seems impossible in summer.
We’re having such a good time, cruising down the road on our fast bicycles, in our fast cars; you have no goddamn right to just up and die in the middle of it all. You’re not supposed to kick the bucket on a bright sunshiney day.
But we do. All the time.
More tales of kids being left in cars by their parents or guardian will emerge here in the next few months. And more of us will carpet-bomb our opinions across our personal landscapes, chucking our impulsive opinions at our friends on the beach or around the picnic table as we swat away the gnats and sip from something cool.
But I don’t know if we’re ever really going to understand just how to feel about the people left behind, about the sad guilty ones left standing alone after making the worst mistake they will ever make in this lifetime or the next.
You can also find Serge on his personal blog, Thunder Pie.
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