Instead I saw a mother park her car and enter a grocery store while talking on her cell-phone. She didn’t notice that she had left her 2 year old son in the car. My heart started to beat loudly in my chest. I continued watching as her 2 year old boy looked out of the window, who wondered where his mother had gone but was not entirely concerned, because why should he expect anything other than the love and attention that his mother usually gives him?
We see the mother in the supermarket, she’s double checking her grocery list, making sure she hasn’t forgotten anything. A friend stops for a chat and they talk about the family kids.
Outside in the car, the sun is beating down. The toddler has started to sweat, his face is pale. My mouth is dry and my eyes are tearing as I watch him. People in the parking lot come and go. One lady puts her lipstick on in the car’s side-mirror and notices the child, but does nothing about it.
The mother is now at the checkout counter and there is a really long line. She checks her list, her bag. She knows she has forgotten something. Outside, another passerby notices the kid in the car and tries to open all the doors, but they are locked. She gives up and walks away. The child is crying hysterically now. He is trapped. He becomes lethargic. His hair sticks to his face and his head drops to his chest.
Finally, finally someone sees him and decides to do something about it. This man smashes the window open and takes the unconscious child out. He calls for help and before long an ambulance and a police officer arrive.
We don’t see the child at this point because it is so distressing. There are tears rolling down my face as I watch. The mother is held away from her child, she is distraught. Her son could die and it’s all her fault. The magnanimous amount of guilt crushes her. The police officer leads her to his vehicle, the ambulance drives away with the child inside. We don’t see what happens in the end.
In Israel we hear about stories like these all the time. With so many heat waves and very warm weather in general, this danger is real. At 40 degrees Celsius, a child trapped in a car suffers permanent damage to his brain and kidneys. 41.6 degrees for as little 15 minutes is fatal.
This video, along with similar stories I had recently heard, stayed with me for days. I felt haunted. Because the truth of the matter is, it only takes one second of diverted attention for such a tragedy to occur. I have heard first-hand from friends that they left their child for a few minutes and then remembered and went back to get them. None of us is safe from our own memory loss, sleep deprivation, and the juggling that is a working mother’s life.
On the way home during yesterday’s heat wave, my baby in my arms, I checked every car that I passed to make sure there were no children left behind.
View the full video here.