Here is Megan’s story, as told by her mom, Kim.
Meghan Agnes Beck
October 23, 2001 – December 18, 2004
October 23rd, 2001 was one of the happiest days of my life. I welcomed not one, but two healthy beautiful babies into the world and into our lives. At 6:04 am, Meghan arrived, feet first and feisty, literally kicking her twin brother out of the womb. She was born just 4 minutes after him yet had both he and her 3-year old brother wrapped around her tiny fingers from the moment she was born. She was my only daughter and the youngest, just barely. I was over the moon to be a mom of three, and boy-girl twins!
Meghan was an “old soul”, her eyes holding a wisdom far beyond her years, along with the twinkle of silliness and mischief. She was a force to be reckoned with. Energetic and loud, yet compassionate and loving, and yes, demanding. You never had to wonder if she wanted something or wasn’t happy! She would often get impatient when her brothers were taking too long to get ready to go outside to play, or cry or make an endearing pouty face if she wasn’t getting her way. She’d climb into your lap, take your face between her tiny little hands, and say “You listen (or talk) to MEGGIE!” when she wanted your attention.
Her favorite things, besides her brothers, were playing on the swings, asking anyone who’d listen to her to “fly me in the sky” (pick her up over their heads, like she was swinging), and animals, especially cats. Any cat. Stuffed, real, a picture, a book about kitties, if it was a kitty, she loved it. She named most of them “Duncan” after our real orange tabby.
On the evening of December 17th, 2004, my husband and I and our older son went across the street to a neighbor’s house for a holiday open house. My aunt was staying with the twins. When I left Meggie was watching Frosty for a zillionth time. To this day, I can’t hear the song or watch the TV show, it’s too painful. She loved the part where he came back to life, of course. Earlier that day, she had come up to both my husband and I, separately, and told us she loved us. Something that was out of the blue, and in hindsight, gave me chills. I came home from the party around 9. I was tired and wanted to get up early. We had a busy day planned for making Christmas cookies and crafts. I tucked my older son into bed, kissed the twins, who were already asleep, and went to bed.
On December 18th, 2004, I woke to my husband screaming my name. I had slept later than usual. From the tone of his voice, I knew something was horribly wrong. I ran into Meghan’s room to find he and the two boys standing around Meghan, who was lying in the middle of the floor, pale and looking black and blue. They were panicked. I asked what happened, as I knelt beside her. He said she was under her dresser. I yelled for him to go call 911 and I began CPR. I’d later hear that 911 call for the first time on a news program I was interviewed for. They didn’t tell me they had and were going to play it as part of the story.
My older son, then 6, was hysterical, crying and anxious, begging me to save her and make her wake up. Her twin knelt quietly by her feet, softly saying “Meggie not wake up”. It was as if he knew.
I was suddenly living every parent’s nightmare. The ambulance arrived, and I ran out in the yard in my bare feet in the cold, asking where they were taking her and if I could go with them. They wouldn’t let me go with them, so I jumped in the car. Neighbors were already at our house to stay with the boys and I drove to the local hospital. I have no idea how I did it. From there, she was flown by life flight to a trauma hospital and an EMT drove us there.
When we arrived, we were escorted by the EMT that drove us and an ER employee to THAT room. I honestly thought I was having a heart attack and might just die myself. My legs were heavy like cement, everything was fuzzy and far away, my heart was literally breaking, I could feel it. We sat in that room, the one no one ever wants to be in. I felt like I was wearing a crushing cloak. A priest joined us. I sat in despair. I knew in my heart she was gone but hoped beyond hope I was wrong.
The ER doctor and an intern walked in. He was wearing a nice Christmas tie. It’s odd what you remember. I heard a Charlie Brown voice “wah mah wan blah wah wha wan wah… I’m so sorry, but Meghan died.” I asked to see her and after a few minutes we were allowed to spend some time with her. We stayed over an hour. I sat in a rocking chair and the nurses placed her in my arms and covered us with a blanket. I rocked my dead baby girl, stroking her silky hair, holding her tiny cold hands, staring at her beautiful face. It was so surreal. The nurses helped us to make painted hand and foot prints for her brothers and a plaster mold of her hand and foot in a heart shaped plaster as a keepsake. They helped me call my parents and other relatives. They comforted us as best they could. They gently prepared us to say good-bye.
In the middle of all of that, two detectives came to speak with us. They asked us questions about what happened. From what I’ve heard from others, we were fortunate. No one from child protective services was called, though our home was searched while we were at the hospital and the detectives tried to figure out how a 28-pound tiny little girl could tip such a heavy and relatively small dresser. They took the jammies she was wearing as evidence. I so wished I had them. Several months later, I reached out to the police and mentioned that. They brought them to me! I desperately tried to smell her on them.
I had to leave the hospital that day without my beautiful daughter. I had only a box with a lock of her hair, those painted and plaster foot and hand prints, and a useless brochure on grief. It was the worst day of my life. How the hell was I supposed to survive this? How was I going to tell her brothers? I was supposed to be making Christmas cookies, not planning a funeral for my daughter!
The next time I saw her was in a little white casket at the funeral home, after an autopsy. I had to pick out readings, songs, the clothes she would wear, a prayer card, and a headstone. I stood and hugged people for 3 hours at her wake, and I think I comforted more of them than they comforted me. I buried my little girl 3 days before Christmas, with her favorite outfit, blankie, and stuffed kitty. I have no idea how I survived it all.
To this day, I dread the Christmas season. I can’t go into stores. Little girl holiday dresses dissolve me to tears. Silent Night pisses me off. I am blindsided by triggers left and right, some I anticipate and some I don’t. I can’t wait for December 26th to come so the pain of the season can go away with the songs, celebrations, and decorations. I feel horrible that Christmas for us has never been what it should have been for my boys.
Meghan’s dresser was made by a well-known and top of the line juvenile furniture manufacturer. I’ve since learned the exact same dresser fell on another child, who thankfully was not seriously injured because it fell against a bed. We had taller and more unstable pieces of furniture secured (though I realize now, they were not properly secured), but I did not realize her dresser posed a fatal danger. It was heavy. It was well made. It was expensive. I thought it was safe. Wasn’t all juvenile furniture supposed to be safe? I was wrong. And it cost my daughter her life and my family so much more emotionally.
I promised Meghan that night I would work tirelessly to ensure this never happened to anyone else. Meghan’s Hope (www.meghanshope.org) was born that night. I honestly thought it was rare, these tip-over accidents, that we were among just a small percentage of people this happened to, and if I could just get the attention of the news media, people would know and it would stop. I was so wrong. I’ve been interviewed many times by local, national, and international media. I’ve had bills in the U.S. House. I’ve spoken at conferences and used social media as much as I can. The Meghan’s Hope Facebook page and blog post that went viral raised awareness tremendously. I’ve partnered with Make Safe Happen and The CPSC’s Anchor It! Campaign. I’ve written letters to retailers, news media, and members of the House and Senate. All the things you’d think would be vehicles for change. Yet much of it fell on deaf ears and ended when the news cycle ended.
It’s been 14 years and very little has changed. The statistics are higher now than they were then, but at least the data is being captured now, where I don’t think it was then. Awareness is greater, but not good enough, because it still happens every 17 minutes. Even people who know this think it won’t happen to them and do nothing to prevent it! A few dollars and a few minutes WOULD HAVE SAVED HER LIFE. That’s all it would have taken to secure her dresser to the wall and she’d be alive today. I forever see one where two should always have been, and the pain at times is unbearable. Had I known, she’d be here today. I failed as a parent (above all else, keep them alive) and I desperately want to prevent any other parent from having this guilt and pain.
The voluntary furniture safety standard that existed then is almost exactly the same as it is now. The CPSC and the furniture industry have done nothing but drag their feet and play politics while innocent children suffered life-altering injuries or lost their lives. It has to stop. Furniture manufactures must make safer furniture. They’ve already proven it can be done. The manufacturing safety standard needs to be strong enough to protect children adequately. The CPSC must make the safety standard mandatory, so all kids are safe and the playing field is level. But they won’t. Until our voices are louder than theirs and consumers use their dollars to “vote” and demand change.
We need your help! Tip-overs can happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime. Virtually all furniture, TV’s and appliances are at risk for tipping over and injuring or killing someone if they are not properly anchored. It doesn’t matter how educated you are, how much money you make or what the furniture or TV cost. It doesn’t matter where you live, the color of your skin, your political affiliation, if your child climbs or not, if you are “always with them” or not – because you aren’t, or if they are a baby or a tween, even adults have been killed in tip-over incidents, just much less often than children under 5.
What matters is that until furniture, TV’s, and appliances are held to a mandatory anti-tip safety standard, the ONLY way to protect your child is to make sure they are ALL properly secured to the wall. I assure you, no parent ever thinks it will happen to them, so if that’s your excuse, you are playing roulette with your child’s life. You don’t ever want to walk in my shoes. Anchor it all, today!
I’ve learned that it really will take a village, a very large village, to put an end to these preventable tip-overs. We need every person’s help we can get to lend your voice to our song. Please, listen to Meggie (feel those tiny hands on your face and those wise blue eyes looking into yours and demanding your attention), and help us #stoptipovers!
Kimberly Amato, Meghan’s Mom
Founding member of Parents Against Tip-Overs
Facebook: Meghan’s Hope