“Falling down, falling down, falling down” the incessant sound of my toddler came from the back seat as we made our way to the park. “Cassie, keep it down back there! I can hardly hear myself think.” My daughter Cassandra was really finding her voice lately and was no stranger to repeating random things loudly and as much as possible. Anyone familiar with the terrible twos and the years directly following will understand that struggle. It was hard to find my peace at times, but my wife and I did our best and always made things work. Our date nights are few and far between, but when we finally got around to them, they were always just what the doc ordered. It has been a while since our last one and I am starting to think it is time to call up Cassie’s Grandpa before long for another.
It was my wife’s night to go see her friends and I was on babysitting duty. Nothing better than a trip to the park to wear out a kid with all that pent-up energy. This way she will run rampant for 30 minutes to an hour and be worn out by the time we were driving home. That, of course, leads to her falling asleep in her car seat and an easy transfer to the bed once we arrive. As you can tell I’ve kind of got this thing down to a science. Cassie was very particular in which parks she liked to play at, strange I know. Her favorite was the one downtown with the stone chairs that you could talk to each other in from really far away. Something to do with the concave shape of them and how they are positioned to bounce the sound around. There was plenty else to do there as well, but that part was always her favorite.
We made it to the bridge heading into town and Cassie started to really wig out. She kept calling out “Dad! Daddy! Help!”. I was afraid that something was terribly wrong with her, so I pulled over just after the bridge into a nearby parking lot in front of a pizzeria. I unbuckled her as quickly as I could and pulled her to the front seat with me to examine her. “What is wrong sweetie? Tell Daddy what is wrong”. Everything appeared to be fine with her besides the fact that she wouldn’t stop crying. I just held on to her and let her cry it out, kids can get like that sometimes, but I was just glad to find out that she wasn’t hurt. “It’s gonna be alright Cassie, we are going to go to the park, and we can even stop to get some ice cream on the way if you want.” I wasn’t against a little bribing if it meant I could have some peace and quiet, not the best parenting technique, but sometimes it was necessary for your sanity.
That is when I heard it, a sound that would change my life as well as the lives of so many others. A loud rumbling accompanied by the sounds of piercing screams. I turned toward the noise and saw the bridge crumbling covered from front to back in rush hour traffic. There were a couple of people who had been walking that scrambled in a mad dash but we’re not able to make it to safety. Some of the drivers had thrown their doors open in hopes of the same, but it all happened far too fast. Not one person from one end to the other was able to make it off of the bridge before the total collapse. It was a day that nobody in this city would ever forget, and all that kept running through my head were the words of my daughter as she sat in the car seat on our way to cross the bridge. “Falling down, falling down, falling down”
Cassie was no stranger to occurrences such as this one. When she was too young to speak a word, she was already prone to these types of incidents. While at first glance, they might only seem a bit weird, looking back now, I fear that they were premonitions which we were unable to understand. My mother passed away due to a heart attack just last year. The doctors said that if she had gotten to a hospital it was more likely than not that she would have been able to pull through.
The one thing that always stuck out to me about that day as far as Cassie was concerned? She had taken every block, every puzzle piece, and every toy, that was shaped like a heart and placed it in the center of the room. If that wasn’t strange enough, she had placed every one of them on top of her favorite pictures of her and her Nana from one of their many Zoo trips that they had taken together. Much like this time with the bridge, Cassie had been completely inconsolable although neither me nor my wife had the slightest clue what was wrong at the time.
Another time that stands out was when we had brought Cassie to see the newest princess movie at the movie theaters. She had known very few words at this point, but she could manage to speak a select few from time to time. We had to leave early from the movie, babies do not tend to do well with that long of a period without crying or being noisy in some type of fashion. When we walked past the last theater on our way out though Cassie began to say “Fire, fire! Daddy, Mommy, fire”. It was wintertime and we had been making fires at home every night so we assured her that when we arrived at home, we would be sure to make a fire for her in the fireplace.
Once we arrived, I threw a few logs on and worked my magic with the kindling, newspaper, and some heavy blowing before grabbing the remote to turn on the nightly news. To the surprise of my wife and me the theater that we had just been at was on the news and the flames were crackling as a black cloud of smoke rose from the side of the building. Apparently, the theater that we had been walking by when Cassie began to go on about the fire had sparked into flames during the showing that was going on just moments after. I could go on and on about the different times like this that just seemed a bit too strange to be a coincidence. I just don’t have the stomach for it now though.
You see, I have been pacing the bedroom with my stomach in knots for the past hour trying to figure out what this could mean or what I should do. It was only yesterday now that the tragic events happened with the bridge. As heartbreaking and earth-shattering as that was for me to witness, it was something that my sweet daughter Cassandra said to me today that has me in such a frenzy. She looked at me and said, “Please watch out for the scary man Daddy.” I don’t think I will be able to sleep a wink tonight. God help me, I may never be able to sleep again.