How one family’s loss is changing my perspective

Let me start of by saying THANK YOU! To all of your sweet compliments about my first engagement shoot. I was not expecting that kind of response and it truly made my week!

The beautiful couple loved them and even asked if I do weddings but I’m way WAY too scared to photograph such an important day right now. But it’s giving me something to think about and explore in the future. Photography has been a part-time passion of mine but I’m beginning to wonder if I can or should make it something more.

My JOB job also gave me something to think about this past week. I was feeling uninspired. Sucky. Worthless. Not completely worthless, but just questioning what I’m doing day in and day out, and if I am really making an impact. Where I am and where I saw myself being at this point isn’t exactly coinciding. I was having a “woe is me” moment.

Then, I did two stories that changed my outlook.

A couple of years ago, I read this Washington Post article about a fatal distraction–Parents who forgot their children in their cars on the way to work. Their children died and they have to live with that guilt and pain the rest of their lives. So many people read stories like that and get accusatory “how could you forget?” “I’d never do that!” “What horrible parents!” but I had the opposite approach thinking it could happen to me. It could happen to anyone, but I want to do what I can so it doesn’t.

Earlier this year I started a parenting segment at my news station, and doing a story on this issue has been on my mind from the start. I just needed the right elements.

As the temperatures warmed up the story nagged from the back of my mind.

I did a little research and found a family who had a little girl about my daughter’s age, and lost her last year after a hot car death. They speak openly about it so that they can prevent it from happening to someone else.

When I went to their house and listened to them tell me their story, I fought back tears, and I lost to a few of them.

I won’t pretend to know how it feels to experience what they felt. But as I listened to the father describe blacking out after realizing what had happened, the mother sharing the horror she felt when she found her daughter, still barely alive, I tried to imagine myself in their shoes. And just pretending to be in their shoes gave me a horrible sinking feeling.

I nearly cried while writing and editing the story as well. The most heartbreaking part to me was when Brett, the dad, talks about the ducks in the pond that were his daughters, and even though they have trouble floating, he can’t bear to take them out because they are the original ducks that belonged to Sophia.

You can read more about their story and mission at

Here’s the story if you’d like to see it, and get a glimpse of my “day job” and see one of the most important stories I’ve done in my career.

Later that day I interviewed a young man, only 29, who was on top of the world last year, and while diving into his pool, he slipped and broke his neck. He also brought me to tears. I couldn’t help but think about something like this happening to my husband, or myself. You can watch that story here.

This week truly made me stop, count my blessings, and realize I have so much to be thankful for.

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  1. I think accidents like this are generally due less to “hustle and bustle” and more to sleep deprivation. My son didn’t sleep through the night until he was one, and I was so exhausted that sometimes I almost felt like I was driving drunk. There were more than a few panicked glances in my rear view mirror to see his little feet when I felt sure I had forgotten him somewhere!

    I have no judgment for instances like this…only compassion. What a terrible thing.

  2. I haven’t watched your story yet because I’m not sure I can. Just reading what you wrote above brought tears to my eyes. I cannot imagine the anguish of losing a child. An accident like this where you blame yourself for the loss has to be even greater pain….my heart goes out to those parents.

  3. Thank you so much for sharing the hot car story. I am a sleep deprived, working mom to an 8 month old little boy and my husband and I were just talking about this the other day. I am so afraid that this could happen to us because of the combined factor of very little sleep and being so busy. I loved the tip about putting your purse in the back seat! I so appreciate you sharing this story. Thank you!

  4. Stories like this always make me sad. You end up putting yourself in their shoes. I totally do not know what I would do in a situation like that. Like you said, this makes me stop and count my blessings.

  5. Stories like these really help us to put our lives into perspective. And I totally think that your photography skills have the potential to become more than a part-time hobby if you wanted to make a full blown business out of it.

  6. I bawled like a baby when I read the Washington Post Article. I cannot imagine the pain they must be going through. I’ve never had a problem remembering my daughter, but I’m going to take your advice and start putting my purse in the back seat. Just to be safe. Thank you for sharing this.

  7. Oh man, Jenn. Tears. These deaths happen so often here in Arizona. It is so tragic and breaks my heart.

    This is one of the reasons I decided I couldn’t hack it as a reporter, or even a producer of news. The few child abuse, drowning and accident stories I encountered during my time in news literally broke me. I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle it as a day-to-day career. It takes a certain kind of person to deliver tragic news like this, but it is for the benefit of others. I am glad there are people like you who can shed light on more difficult issues without losing your shiz.

  8. It scares me to death that something like this could happen to anyone! I do try to leave my purse or cell phone in the back seat when my son is back there so I don’t forget anything.

  9. I was just explaining to Layla this morning how blessed we are, exactly. We saw a lil girl, maybe 9…walking with a white cane. aka, a stick blind people use to guide them. When she asked what that lil girl and two older people were doing on the corner. I wasn’t sure, until I saw the white cane. And I explained to her that she was blind. She could not see…the green grass, the blue skies, people’s faces. That the older people were there to help her learn how to walk with the stick on her own. That opened up a HUGE conversation. But – we are blessed. And sooooo lucky! Glad you found the good in all of this…

  10. This story is so sad. I am super paranoid about something like this happening to my family. I always look at my daughter’s car seat before getting out of the car. I still suffer from mommy brain, which makes me extra cautious.

  11. i’ve been terrified of this happening to me ever since i saw a similar story on a talk show. i’m with you Weather Anchor Mama, my paranoia drives me to check the car seat every time i’m in the car. i’ve even gone so far as to call where i left my daughter while staring at an empty car seat just to make sure she’s where i think she is! maybe it’s excessive, but i just can’t imagine going through something like this and would much rather be the paranoid mom than the mourning mom. good for this family though for remembering their daughter and continuing their life together. i’m sure that’s what she would’ve wanted 🙂

  12. First off, wow to see you in live action. Second, I have no judgement against these parents. I have almost forgotten my child in the car, because at the time it had been a very long time since i was able to carry him so I wasn’t responsible for getting him out. Then bam, oh yeah, duh. I feel so so bad for these parents, and I have many many moments where I feel like I forgot something, just to double check my rear view mirror to make sure I have all three of my kids back there. That fear never goes away, and for those parents out there who say they’ve never felt this, either they are lying to themselves, or they have a nanny. Because the reality is, with sleep deprivation, busy lifestyles, its always a worry. Thank you for putting this out there.

  13. This brings to mind the mother Oprah had on her show a few years ago who this happened to. It’s haunted me ever since. We rely on public transportation here in NYC so I haven’t had to deal with this, but it’s still on my mind nonetheless. I hope they develop technology that can link a car seat alert to the driver seat at some point, but for now the idea of putting your purse of phone in the backseat is great especially with the texting while driving issue.

  14. Ugh! These hot car death stories break my heart and make me furious all at the same time. I’m devastated for the families of these tragedies, and while I agree that this can happen to anyone, it SHOULDN’T!

    We all know that if you have children, accidents are going to happen. It’s a fact of life that they’re going to get hurt. But leaving your child alone in a car is 100% preventable. It’s not so much an accident as it is a terrible mistake. As parents we have a responsibility to protect our children as much as humanly possible, and to me this is inexcusable.

    I could rant on for ages, but I’ve gotten what I needed to off my chest. 🙂 THANK you for your coverage of this tragedy. And for your tips on how we can all prevent a similar mistake. I truly believe you ARE making a difference with stories like this!

    Keep up the good work!

  15. These kind of accidents make me sick to my stomach. It seems like every summer there are a few stories just like the one you covered here in Minneapolis. I just feel for those families and cannot imagine the heartbreak. I love your idea of throwing your purse in the back. That is smart and clever!

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