A horrifying mistake

When I was a freshman in high school, I wrote a research paper on child abuse. I had to manage my time well, because I could not sit at the computer for hours and do research. I could only read a few articles and case studies at a time because it was just too heart-wrenching.

This, I think, was harder. Because it wasn’t intentional. It was an accident.

Fatal Distraction: Forgetting a Child in the Backseat of a Car Is a Horrifying Mistake. Is it a Crime? by Gene Weingarten won Pulitzer Prize for feature writing, and it’s no surprise why.

The story was on parents whose children had died because they had been forgotten in the backseat. My favorite quote from the article sums it up pretty well:

What kind of person forgets a baby?

The wealthy do, it turns out. And the poor, and the middle class. Parents of all ages and ethnicities do it. Mothers are just as likely to do it as fathers. It happens to the chronically absent-minded and to the fanatically organized, to the college-educated and to the marginally literate. In the last 10 years, it has happened to a dentist. A postal clerk. A social worker. A police officer. An accountant. A soldier. A paralegal. An electrician. A Protestant clergyman. A rabbinical student. A nurse. A construction worker. An assistant principal. It happened to a mental health counselor, a college professor and a pizza chef. It happened to a pediatrician. It happened to a rocket scientist.

The amount of reporting done was impeccable; Weingarten was able to collect enough data to give anecdotes as well as hard facts. He paints the picture of interviews conducted before giving the reader information about the brain that explains how a person can forget their child in the backseat. It’s conversational but extremely informative. I wanted to cry and get as far away from my computer as possible, but it was so well-written that I could not take my eyes away.

But I will admit: there was a photo gallery that I couldn’t bring myself to look at.

By Annie Perry


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