I haven't been online for a few days, and I need to explain why--partly because I'm still trying to process what happened. This is not an excuse for being behind--I was already behind on a number of things.
Thursday morning I was working in my downstairs office and I heard screaming from the house behind ours. For those of you who follow me on Facebook, yes, this is the house where several years ago the lady got locked out by her then two-year-old, and where two years ago, they set the palm tree behind our house on fire with their barbecue and then proceeded to scream and accuse each other (husband and wife, that is) instead of trying to put the fire out. (The fire was put out by me and other neighbors.)
The husband has a horrendous temper--at least by the sound of it. He's always screaming and cursing at the kids and at the wife. That's a kind of abuse, but it doesn't mean he's dangerous per se. Just...unpleasant. Certainly, an unpleasant neighbor. Maybe he's a great guy otherwise. I wouldn't know.
But when I heard her screaming, I thought they were fighting again, so I stopped and listened for a minute, and I thought she sounded more terrified than usual. I thought I heard her scream, "No, no, no." And I could hear the kids screaming (they have three little boys and a little girl).
I got up and went to the glass door which opens onto the backyard and listened--I heard one of the little boys cry, "Oh God, help us."
I ran to the back wall, which is chest high, and called, "What's wrong? What's happening?"
But he was gone. I could hear them further inside the house, and they were still screaming--I couldn't understand what they were saying (the parents are Armenian, I believe). So I called out again, "What's happening? What's wrong?"
I was trying to decide whether to call 911 as a domestic, and as I looked around their yard, a flash of pink caught my eye. I thought it was a pool toy. I looked again and it was the baby daughter at the bottom of the pool.
That image is burned into my brain. I don't think I will ever be able to forget that.
She was on the bottom in her little pink pajamas. No movement, no bubbles, the wrong color--I could see it all.
I ran inside and called 911 and then I ran back, still talking to 911 and began to scream, "Get her out of the pool, get her out of the pool!" Screaming over and over. To nobody.
One of the little boys ran out and I yelled, "Can you swim? Get her out of there!"
He jumped in and dragged her out, and I told him to get her on her side--and at that point the mother and the other kids poured out of the house. She was on the phone--to her husband, I believe--and she began to beg me to climb the wall and help her. I waved the phone and said, "I'm on the phone with 911. I'm going to talk you through." She kept begging me to come and help her.
It was pandemonium. The young German shepherd next door was trying to scale the wall next to me, barking his head off, the mother was screaming and hysterical, the kids were screaming and hysterical, I could barely hear the operator--who by then was an EMT.
I finally got the mom to listen, we went through the whole thing of CPR--she kept stopping to wail and sob--which I don't blame her for because I was also crying. When I saw the little girl, I believed it was already too late--but we kept at it. Thirty chest compressions, nothing. Then I tried to instruct her on mouth-to-mouth. I could go on and on. It seemed to take months before the sheriffs arrived, but I think it was only about five minutes.
They took the little girl away and I broke down and started sobbing. The operator/EMT guy said, "Listen, you did a great job. Really. You did everything you could."
Which I would like to believe. But of course I feel guilty.
A while later a neighbor down the street came to our house to say she wanted to make sure I was all right. She had seen the whole thing from her bedroom window. How many other people were watching? People who were closer and could have been of more help? I mean, it was early and most people would be at work, but was I really the only person able to respond?
It's a little bit of comfort that she said, "You should know that you were great. You were so in control and so calm (I was not, for the record, either of those things). I could hear everything you said to her. I could see you petting and calming the dog (which I'd totally forgot) and counting for her and talking to the kids."
The sheriffs came to interview me and I told them what I knew. They took photos of my yard and their yard. They said the little girl had not been pronounced but it did not look good.
Anyway, that's it. That's where I've been. I'm doing my best not to think about it, and today is much easier, but it's woven into my dreams. It pops into my head at unexpected times. It's not my tragedy and it is not about me, but I still have to work through my inadvertent part in it. I do believe I did everything I could. But it's still...dreadful.