It began with an explosion. Lights flickered. a fire erupted. Several minutes later, screams ripped through the twilight, and a family's life was changed in a twinkling.
The late evening sky, streaked with a golden pink, darkened with each passing minute. Sprinklers sprayed lawns; the hum of leaf blowers and weed trimmers filled the air, racing against daylight to finish their Saturday evening chores. On the street, kids played or clustered in groups around streetlights as if waiting for them to glow in the coming twilight.
The amber lamps flickered on, glowing steady. Moths appeared almost as if breathed from the night air. Fireflies waltzed across lawns in weak but whimsical imitation of the nightlights of Fairbury.
The lights flickered. Dimmed. Blackness shrouded the neighborhood as screams pierced the night air.
One little boy. One terrified family. One loving community.
Life changes–sometimes in an instant. For the Cox family, that change comes on a lazy June evening. A raven flies into a power line and falls to its death as a transformer blows. Three-year-old Nathan Cox points to the ground and says, “Look, Daddy!”
Fire consumes a fence and Jon Cox leads his son to safety–or so he thinks. Impending twilight hides a live power line that lies in the shadows of the alley.
Screams rip through the night air and the hearts of Jon and Kelly Cox as Nathan writhes in pain. Jon jerks his son to safety, but not before the damage is done.
The paramedics agree. “He should be dead.” The doctors work through torturous therapies to heal him–therapies little Nathan doesn’t understand. His words rip through the hearts of his parents–his family. “Don’t hurt me, Daddy.”
But through the pain, the fear, the loss of the carefree innocence of a life before trauma, bright moments appear and grow. Strangers from all over the world band together, united in prayer for the healing of one pain-riddled little boy. Strangers all across the country offer help in the way of fundraisers.
And through it all, one community shows the power of uniting together in one purpose. Car washes, bake sales, business donations and discounts, donation cans, and a recycling drive appear one after the other in an effort to help offset the staggering financial burden of nearly a month in a hospital–without insurance.
In one great leap of faith and show of love, a group of musicians gather to present a benefit concert. Businesses offer free fliers, matching donation funds, and volunteer time. People appear from all corners of the town to do their part to ensure that the concert is a rousing success.
One theme runs through the course of each event and surmounts every obstacle. “God’s got this.” And little Nathan? He’s the inspiration that ties it all together. His heart wrenching cries and screams as he tries to walk again unites a community. His goofy smile and loopy comments add hope amid the pain of suffering. Ask him–just ask him what happened. He’ll tell you. “A bird died.”
A Bird Died is the fictionalized account of one little boy’s journey, one family’s tragedy, and one community’s love and support amidst it all.
June 6, 2012–a day our family cannot forget. A raven flew into a power line, the transformer exploded and caught on fire, and my son-in-law, David, went to help put out the fire. My grandchildren followed. My daughter saw and called them back. Though my granddaughter returned, three-year-old Stephen either didn’t hear or didn’t obey. David noticed and led Stephen back to the house.
And our lives changed.
With the explosion, the power line broke and fell. Night started to fall. Against the darkness of the street and in the low evening light, no one saw the live power line lying in the street–not until the screams of Stephen pierced the air. He stepped or tripped and then fell onto the power line, electrocuting him.
“He should be dead.”
The words of the paramedics confused my son-in-law and daughter. The burns didn’t look that bad–yet. At the local hospital, we were told that he had second-degree burns and would be transferred to Bakersfield to the burn unit. We were stunned. By the time the ambulance reached the burn unit, the picture turned even more grim. Stephen had third-degree burns to his legs.
And the nightmare continued.
Some memories of that time stand out more than others. Stephen’s screams in hydrotherapy. But his pathetic pleas stand out more than anything else. “Please don’t hurt me, Daddy.”
Amid that horrible time, there were also lighter-hearted moments. My favorite? If you asked Stephen what happened, he’d say, “A bird died.”
This book will be a fictionalized account of those days. It’ll feature the community that surrounded him–centered around the town of Fairbury. All proceeds will go to pay for Stephen’s ongoing care. He’s expected to have one or two surgeries a year for the next fifteen years. I cannot wait to start this project.