A father's anguish: 'She died in my arms'

Pasadena neighbors, church members share grief after accident kills energetic 9-year-old

December 26, 2008|By Tyeesha Dixon and Gadi Dechter | Tyeesha Dixon and Gadi Dechter,tyeesha.dixon@baltsun.com and gadi.dechter@baltsun.com

On Wednesday afternoon, Michael Foy decided to change a tire on his trailer while his wife, Catherine, prepared a Christmas Eve lunch and baked cookies.

Foy assumed his youngest daughter, Jacqulynn, had followed her stepmother inside their Pasadena home.

Moments later, as he looked through the window while backing up his truck, he saw 9-year-old Jackie pinned beneath a wheel of the trailer.

Foy has been replaying the next few minutes in his mind ever since: screaming to his wife to call an ambulance, scooping the girl into his arms, hearing her complain of a leg injury before her eyes rolled back and she lost consciousness.

"She died in my arms," he said. "I felt the life go out of her."

The Foys raced Jackie, a fourth-grader at Lake Shore Elementary School, to a nearby fire station. An ambulance took her to Baltimore-Washington Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead.

"The hospital said it was internal injuries," Mike Foy said. "She wasn't bleeding ... the trailer was too heavy."

Mike and Cathy Foy were trying extra hard to make this Christmas a cheerful one for Jackie, whose heart was still heavy with grief over the death of her mother, Mary Weber-Foy, in a January 2007 car accident.

"She really missed her mom," Mike Foy said. "In the last three days she was really sad."

There was no gift exchange yesterday in the Foy household, and the still-wrapped presents for Jackie are almost unbearable for Cathy Foy to behold.

"I don't know what to do with them," she said last night, grief audible in her voice. In the gift boxes are "lots of electronics," Cathy Foy said. A digital camera, a portable DVD player, video games.

In the hours since the accident, the Foys have been blanketed by support from family, neighbors and the fellowship of their church community.

"Half our church showed up at the hospital," Mike Foy said. The New Beginnings church in Pasadena held a special service Christmas Eve for the girl who enjoyed drama and gymnastics classes and had an artistic bent.

Mike Foy said his faith has allowed him to bear what seems an unimaginable burden of grief. "Jackie knew God," he said. "I know she's in God's hands, she's with her mother, and I know I'll get to see her one day."

But religion is a comfort, not a cure.

"What makes it worse than losing a child," Foy said, his voice breaking, "is that it was in my hands. Basically, that makes it 10 times worse than just losing her."

Christmas Day was spent fielding phone calls and visits from dozens of friends and neighbors. "It was hard, we looked at pictures, cried a lot," the father said.

"A very emotional day."

Meanwhile, the close-knit community along Swift Road struggled to comprehend the tragedy of what should have been a happy day.

Neighbors said Jackie was an energetic and spirited girl who loved to play outdoors and always wore a smile.

"She liked to get in our pond," said Linda Marcinkevich, whose daughter baby-sat Jackie when she was younger. "She liked to try to get [the fish] with her hands. ... She was like a grandchild. She was always happy, no matter what. She always gave you a kiss and told you she loved you."

One of Marcinkevich's fondest memories of Jackie was when she and her mother brought over a black and white kitten as a gift a few years ago. It was Jackie, in fact, who told "Miss Linda" that she couldn't name the cat Marilyn, as she had planned, because the cat was a boy.

"She just was a smart little girl," Marcinkevich said.

Heather Mayo lives behind the Bible Church of Lake Shore, just blocks from the Foy home. Mayo said it was at the church that her 9-year-old daughter met Jackie at a Friday night youth group a few months ago, and the two had been friends since.

"She's the sweetest kid I've ever been around," said Mayo, 32. Yesterday afternoon, she still struggled to find a way to break the news of the death to her children.

"She was such a polite kid. She's been here every night this past week," Mayo said.

Chuck Lorenz wept as he described the way Jackie sprinted to the Mayo home every day after school. Lorenz, 58, superintendent of the Bible Church of Lake Shore, said he saw Jackie almost daily and had planned to give her a bike for Christmas.

"She ran like a gazelle," he said. "She had spirit in her legs. She had spirit in her soul. She could have done great things if she had a chance in life. God took her away. How can you say 'Merry Christmas' after all that?"

"She was a blessed child, and I miss her already," Lorenz said. "She was so full of beauty and so full of potential, and I know everybody's going to miss her."

Mike Foy said his loss is heaven's reward.

"Heaven got a wonderful angel last night," he said. "She was just a blessing. I'm a father of seven and I love every one of my children, but that little girl had a very special place in my heart."

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