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Dillon Richard Caputo

September 23, 2005 - May 8, 2007

My precious angel

Dillon was our surprise baby. We had wanted a big family but thought we were only going to be blessed with 2 when we found out we were expecting a third right after my husband left for Iraq. I was training for the Boston Marathon at the time and after consulting with my doctors, got the go ahead to run it while I was 17 weeks pregnant. I finished and was very proud of my time. From that moment, Dillon became extra special to me and I couldn’t wait until I could give him our Boston Marathon Medal one day. In the last months of the pregnancy, my husband begged me to buy a H3 Hummer. Being ex-military myself, I hated the idea of owning one, but I eventually gave in since he works hard for his money.

Dillon was born on September 23, 2005. I was deter-mined I wasn’t going to have an epidural this time and after much work, he was my first baby I had naturally. Now he was even more special to me because I had had to work so hard to have him. His brother and sister loved on him and I couldn’t believe what a perfect family we had. Dillon was such a happy baby. He was always grinning and making me laugh. He loved bouncing to music and chasing the dogs. He loved torturing his older sister and playing with his big brother.

My husband went back to Iraq again and returned shortly after Dillon’s 1st birthday. He could retire in 9 months and said he decided that’s what he wanted to do, as he couldn’t bear to leave us again. We were in San Diego and decided we liked it there so we started looking for a retirement home.

We searched and searched for something we could afford and finally found our dream house. It was on 5 acres in the country and the property was completely fenced with an electronic gate to get in and out. Perfect. Our children would be so safe and they would have plenty of room to kick a soccer ball or hit a baseball.

The house had a pool that wasn’t fenced, so we immediately paid for one to be put in, as Dillon loved the water and we didn’t want to take any chances. The electronic gate didn’t have a sensor on it so my husband took the time to replace it with a safe system so the children would never get hurt in it.

Rattlesnakes were common in the area so we asked our Pediatrician what to do should something happen and then always checked around everything before the kids went out to play. We did everything we could think of to keep our kids safe.

With all the constant moves and deployments of military life, comes a lot of stress and we had our fair share of it. We were actually in counseling at the time to try to work through some things and the counselor told me I needed to loosen up some as I tend to be a perfectionist.

Since our move to the new house, I hadn’t gotten into a good running routine again and knew if I did, I would start to be less stressed. So on Monday morning, May 7th, I got up and went running early before my husband left for work. I felt great afterwards and knew I was on the right track.

That evening when my husband got home from work the kids begged him to go into the hot tub. He had taken his motorcycle to work that day and didn’t even move it into the garage. Instead he went to heat the hot tub. I helped get the kids dressed and then I was going to go start dinner. Instead I decided to join them as they were having so much fun.

I was really trying to loosen up and just enjoy life. I told myself it was ok if they got to bed late one night. I’m so thankful I did get into the hot tub that night. Dillon had so much fun blowing bubbles and splashing. We had a late dinner and then I read to Dillon that night while my husband read to the older 2 kids. Dillon had me read the same book to him like 5 times. It was such a good night. The next morning, May 8th, my alarm clock went off for me to go running. Well, I was sore and tired and contemplated going back to sleep. How I wish I had. Instead I told myself to not be lazy and got up.

While I was on my run, I realized we had forgotten to take the trash out the night before and my husband had forgotten to put his motorcycle away (something he has never done before). The trash pickup comes early but I looked at my watch and thought I could do it in the 30 minutes I had left before the kids got up. However, what I didn’t know was that while I was gone, our dogs that had woken up when I left woke up the kids.

Dillon came running up to me when I walked in the house and I picked him up and said, “What are you doing up?”. I started to carry Dillon off to get his milk when I remembered the trash and told my husband. He was stressed because he was already running late for work, so I told him I would help him with it. So instead of getting Dillon’s milk, I got his coat and shoes on him.

By this time my husband was running out the door and I told Dillon we would get his milk after we helped daddy. There were 3 bins that needed to go out. I thought my husband would put the smaller 2 in the Hummer and I would roll the bigger one down the hill and carry Dillon. My husband asked me to put a smaller one inside the bigger one, but to do this; I had to put Dillon down. The garage doors were open and Dillon’s kitchen and toys were in there. Usually he asks for me to pick him back up but he wandered away to go play with his toys. I headed down the slight hill to wait for my husband’s car to trigger the gate to open. I wish I had looked back up the hill and maybe I could have seen what was about to happen.

My husband says he looked several times in his mirrors because the dogs were out and he wanted to make sure everything was out of the way. He forgot Dillon was outside, as he is normally asleep when my husband leaves for work. The next thing I heard was a terrible scream. I thought my husband had hit one of the dogs; it never dawned on me it was my baby. I can remember looking up the hill at my husband and thinking what is wrong with him, I see all the dogs. He finally managed to point to where the Hummer had been and scream our son’s name.

My baby was lying there with his favorite shoes (camouflage crocs) on and his favorite blankie. My husband got to him before I did, told me he was breathing and to call 911. He then took him inside. I frantically ran around calling 911, getting the dogs put up and the gate kept open. The cops raced past my house the first time and when I went running to the end of my driveway, I lost reception with 911. I had to call them back. It seemed like an eternity before anyone got there. I kept screaming that I needed a paramedic.

They finally got there and then I was no longer allowed in to see my baby boy. They ended up flying him to the hospital and I only got to see him leaving my house on a stretcher. We weren’t allowed in the helicopter with him. My husband was a wreck but I kept making phone calls to family because I knew we were going to need help with the other children. Our good friends arrived to drive us to the hospital but it was rush hour and it took us over an hour to get there. I kept praying but I felt like he was going to be ok, that we were just going to be in for a long hospital stay. How could my baby who was so strong and had run the marathon with me be dying. I said there was no way. I was wrong. They were going to take Dillon in for a CAT scan but then his heart gave out and they couldn’t revive him.

The next time I saw my baby, he was dead. He was only 19 months old. I never got to say goodbye and tell him I loved him because I was too busy trying to get emergency personnel there to help him. I’ll never forgive myself for that and I’ll definitely never forgive myself for not picking him back up that morning.

My husband will forever live with the guilt that he killed our baby. How, when I was trying so hard to improve my married life, could something this terrible happen? My husband’s birthday is May 9th. He’ll never enjoy a birthday again. Mother’s Day was 5 days after I lost my baby, 1 day after the memorial service. It’ll never be the same.

It’s a parent’s worse nightmare to have to bury their child. I buried my marathon medal with him but I kept his blankie. I still hug it to me and think of how much I have lost. I know he’s in a better place but that doesn’t ease the pain I feel when I see another mother with her toddler. It doesn’t take away the hole I feel inside. I lost a huge part of myself that day. I now try to get the word out to everyone about the dangers of vehicles. I wish someone had warned me about them.

If only I had seen one of the shows on backover fatalities. If only…

I had hated that Hummer from the day my husband bought it. I would drive it on occasion when I went somewhere without the children as I would want my husband to have mine with the car seats. It had terrible visibility, even for seeing other vehicles. My car has a backup camera on it. My husband had bought one for the Hummer, but when he installed it, there was a blind spot, so he took it back. He wonders to this day, had he kept it, maybe Dillon wouldn’t have been in the blind spot and he would have seen him.

Now whenever I see a Hummer I get very angry. I now know all vehicles are dangerous, but for some reason, the Hummers make me angrier because their visibility is terrible in general. I’ll never get over the hatred I feel for these vehicles until they make them safer. My husband bought a new vehicle and my one guideline was that it had to have a backup camera in it and it was not to be parked in my driveway until it did.

The sad thing is that he had to request the camera; it was never offered to him. Then we had to wait for it to be installed. It shouldn’t even be an option. They should be as standard as a radio is. Or what about the DVD systems they’re always trying to sell us for our kids. They want our kids to be entertained, but not safe? I truly hope we can get this legislation passed. I don’t want another parent to have to go through what we have gone through.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think, If only….

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