July 19, 2002 – June 24, 2005
Our son, Tegan Hunter Bartow, was born on Friday July 19th 2002. From the day he was born he had such a huge impact on our lives, every decision we made, every sacrifice, every move, came down to a bottom line of what was best for Tegan. I remember holding him in the hospital; he was so tiny and perfect, so incredibly important, our baby boy, and remember promising him that we would never let anything bad happen to him. He was so precious, his whole life ahead of him. We loved him with all our hearts and he in return loved to be snuggled, kissed, and always wanted to be held. As he grew older he was a very loving, caring, active, good hearted little boy. He possessed a beautiful gift, one that reflected an inner light of love, and compassion. He had an outgoing personality; a real people person, the bigger the party, the more people the better. He loved all animals, adults, kids and especially little babies and was extremely excited about his baby sister’s arrival in September of 2005.
No matter how much we wanted that promise of keeping him safe to be true; his life was tragically cut short on Friday, June 24th 2005, just weeks before his third birthday. The day started off perfectly, we slept late and awoke to Tegan climbing into our bed to snuggle in between us. He cuddled for awhile and then started to get excited about our trip to Vermont later that morning. He practiced saying “Vermont” over and over until he had it down pat and then he jumped up and asked us if we wanted back rubs. My husband, Jeb, and I had to laugh as he kneeled in between us and simultaneously rubbed our backs, although mine was more of a side rub since I was 6 months pregnant and couldn’t quite lye on my growing stomach. We told him how they were the “best back rubs we had ever had” and he was beaming ear to ear. It was such a perfectly relaxing, fun loving morning with lots of cuddling and kissing. The excitement was building as we got ready for our 5 hour trip north to Vermont for a long weekend to visit my brother Bill and his fiancée at the time, now wife, Lisa. Tegan was so excited about the trip, going fishing with Dad and Uncle Bill was going to be a new milestone in his life, and he was excited about going on a boat and swimming too. We arrived about 4:30PM and had only been there a little over an hour when Jeb needed to move our SUV out of the mud along the side of the driveway where we parked when we first pulled in, so that Tegan and Bill could get into our truck on the passenger side without getting muddy. As Lisa and I decided on dinner plans, Bill came in the house to tell us that the boys were going to run an errand together and would be back shortly. Meanwhile, Tegan was playing in the yard about 40 feet away, behind the truck; Jeb was only going to be pulling forward about 3-4 feet. So with the door open and his foot hanging out, he rolled the truck forward and felt a small bump, at the same time my brother came out of the house and yelled to Jeb, in an instant, he knew by the tone of his voice it was serious, he thought he had run over their dog. Nothing can prepare you for the reality that you just ran over your only child, your son, the love of your life. In an instant, he was gone and our lives were forever changed. The horror and dread of that day are burned in our memories for all eternity. Tegan's one big passion was trucks... Tonka, matchbox, real ones, you name it, and he loved them. We can only assume that when he heard the truck start, or saw Jeb heading for the truck, that he wanted to go for a ride. He must have run toward the truck from behind and come around the passenger side where his car seat was, and then somehow ended up in front of the truck before Jeb even started moving. Our Ford Expedition was so large, and the blind zones so enormous, Tegan who was in the 95th percentile for height, was never seen on the sides of the SUV or over the hood of the vehicle.
We know that Tegan felt our love every moment of his little life, and that gives us some solace. Most days we feel so alone in our grief, as if no one really understands our loss, the loss of his innate beauty, his glorious life, and all the milestones we would never get to experience with him. When we found www.kidsandcars.org we realized there were far too many parents out there who were experiencing the same loss. It is so difficult, beyond our capacity to understand, why so many beautiful lives have been cut short by similar tragedies. As parents, the promises we make to keep our kids safe are always made with the best of intentions, and we try our hardest to keep them. We are our harshest critics and it's tough to remember that we can't possibly foresee everything that our children will need to be protected from, at any age. Still we can’t help but feel that this bottomless hole in our hearts that will never be filled again, was in fact preventable, preventable because the technology to view these blind zones, or to be alerted that someone or something is close to your bumper already exists. For us it is to late, our pride and joy is gone forever. Please don’t let this needless tragedy strike your family, have front and rear sensors, or cameras installed in your SUV, Mini-Van, or Truck, the minimal cost for these products can save a life, and many lifelong broken hearts.
Tegan’s mom, dad and little sister, and brother (whom he never got to meet)
~Janet, Jeb, Baylor and Colton Bartow