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{ I was watching my daughter strangle to death … }

Normally I use this space to share artwork of happy families. Today I’m using it to send a message. I’ve been writing this blog post in my head since last Friday. Composing and re-composing … re-living the horror of an experience no parent and no child should ever have to go through. I am putting down my thoughts in hopes that it will prevent something like this from happening to anyone ever again.

Fridays are Mommy and Baylor time … the one special day of the week when my rapidly growing 5-year-old isn’t in preschool. Last Friday began with a beautiful breakfast at my other kids’ elementary school to commemorate the veterans in our community. After the breakfast ended I rushed Baylor out the door of the school to avoid being caught in the commotion of a planned fire drill. I shuffled Baylor into the minivan while I chatted with my friend, Aimee, who had pulled out of the slot next to mine and rolled her window down to talk for a bit. I left the sliding door open as I always do, but closed it when another car parked next mine began to pull out. Despite three noisy leaf blowers blaring in the background, our conversation shifted to politics and we continued talking for about 10 minutes.

Baylor is not my quiet kid, so I was pleased to think that she was peacefully reading in the car and not opening and closing the door incessantly. As I stood about five feet from my car I felt confident that she was in a safe place. I was so wrong.

You know that little voice in the back of your head? Mine started quietly reminding me that Baylor would normally be climbing over the seats or running around the parking lot or climbing a tree or finding some other way to distract me from my conversation. I ignored that voice one time, but the second time I decided to step away from our conversation to peek at Baylor. What I saw changed my life forever. She was standing in the third row of seats facing the back window. I knew something was wrong because she wasn’t moving. My first thought at that horrible moment was that she was dead. I told Aimee something was very wrong and quickly opened the back hatch. Baylor had apparently been playing with the seatbelts and got two of them tangled up and wrapped around her neck. I could tell she had been screaming and crying and her face was bright red. She lifted her head when the hatch opened and her big brown eyes looked right at me. The one positive was that her feet were still touching the seat, which may have been enough to keep it from completely cutting off her breathing. I’ll never know how long she was like that … but it was too long.

The next part is a bit of a blur. Aimee and I tried to unwrap the seat belts from around her neck, but as we tried to loosen them they got tighter. Over and over again Aimee kept encouraging Baylor and I to stay calm as we worked to free her. I frantically scrambled to find a key or anything sharp to unhook the middle seat belt from its latch so we could unwind it from around her neck (I had dropped my keys during the initial frantic moments when I climbed in the hatch to try and get her out). When we realized we were not going to be able to unwrap the seat belts and as they continued to get tighter, Aimee ran to the school to grab a pair of scissors. Bless her heart, because she kept running toward the school even as I was screaming her name.

I’m not sure I will ever be able to fully put into words how horrible the next few moments were. I was watching my daughter being strangled to death. I was frantically trying to find my keys or any sharp object to release the middle seat belt from its anchor. Baylor was turning purple and it was clear the situation was deteriorating quickly. I finally grabbed the keys from Aimee’s ignition and reached over the back seat to unhook the middle seat belt. I felt a brief moment of relief as I expected that to release the pressure around her neck, but nothing happened. The seat belts were so tight at that point I couldn’t unthread the middle seat belt from around her neck … it just wouldn’t budge.

Just then Aimee handed me the scissors. At that point I was having visions of sawing through the belt while watching as Baylor slipped away. Fortunately the scissors were sharp enough and cut right through. The seat belt STILL didn’t release at that point, but we were able to untangle and loosen the belts and pull Baylor from the car. She was limp and bright red, but she was also breathing and looking at me.

A long day at Children’s Hospital revealed that Baylor suffered no internal damage to her neck. She is still mad about the IV she endured for her CT scan and essentially equates all her aches and pains to “The Shot.” Her eyes have lost a bit of their sparkle and she is a bit subdued … which is saying a lot for Baylor. We have a long road ahead of us to ensure there is no long-term emotional damage for either of us. There have been many hugs and snuggles. It is difficult to drop her off at preschool, although I know how good it is for her.

The hardest part for me is overcoming the guilt. Everyone tells me things like this can happen to anyone and that they happen so fast. Deep down I know that is true, but that doesn’t erase the images in my head. As parents we vow to always be their for our kids, so it’s hard to come to terms with the fact that if even for a second I wasn’t there when Baylor needed me.

I keep reminding myself that this situation was scary, but fortunately not tragic. For that I do feel blessed. Our angels were looking out for us.

Love your kids, hug your kids, pay attention and please keep a seat belt cutter or scissors somewhere in your car. I don’t want this to ever happen to anyone again.

Thank you to CBS 4 in Denver for picking up this story. The word is getting out. I get shivers each time I read that someone has put scissors in their car … keep sharing!

” By the way, pretty much every parent I tell immediately recalls the time when one of their kids was in a life or death situation.
There is a reason we have to teach them not to stick forks in light sockets or run out in the street or put bags over their heads.
It doesn’t matter how kids get into those situations, because they will. Over and over and over.
It’s how we deal with those situations that truly matters.”
- Courtesy of my husband, Brian Clark

We are working hard to put the twinkle back in her eyes …


EDITED: I want to let you all know that I am reading EVERY SINGLE comment. While I may not get to reply to each and every one, I appreciate the outpouring of love and support we have received. More importantly, I am elated at the number of people of have put seat belt cutters and scissors in their vehicles.


11/22/2012 UPDATE:


We have SO much to be thankful for today. The bruising around Baylor’s neck and the petechiae that dotted her beautiful face have all but faded away. We have spent many many moments cuddling and snuggling. We have both gone to counseling and Baylor has had two cranial sacral/reiki treatments as well as a chiropractic adjustment. She seems to be adjusting beautifully. She isn’t in love with talking about it, but she wants me to … such a wise soul.

We appreciate the prayers and love we have received from around the world. It is so important for me to bring awareness to this issue and I am grateful for every person who has forwarded this along to their friends and family.

I am sending lots of love to my dear friend, Aimee, today. Her strength and love helped carry us through a very difficult time (and she helped save Baylor’s sweet life). I am so grateful to call her a friend.

I am forever thankful for my best friend. I have no words to express the depth of my love for him. He is compassionate and loving and kind and loves me for who I am. Love you, Brian.

And to my family … holding it together through thick and thin.


Sending out a big Thanksgiving hug to you all!

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  • R.Vincent - I feel You heard and responded to a Divine voice. I am 62 yrs. old and have had a similar “voice in my head” which guided me or someone I love to safety several times. I believe in God and the guardian angels that He provides. I am not freaky….just a Believer.

  • AJ - Sending up prayers for your family. So glad to read that everyone is working at healing. I will definitely share this on my wall. And for those I don’t have x’mas gifts for yet… I’m getting them seatbelt cutters! I’ve had a cutter in my car ever since my oldest was born… and now she’s a Mama herself – gotta do what we can to protect those we love (or help a stranger in need). =)

  • Helen - Hi, I hope this doesn’t come across as trying to be a sales person b/c I am totally not. I hope it comes across as someone who wants to help you and your daughter release the emotions and images of what happened. I don’t know where you live either so this isn’t me saying to come see my husband. Anyway, there are things you can do to release emotions and images completely from your entire being that can really help you move on from many things. There may be more than one way of doing this, but the way my husband and I do it is through the Emotion Code, Body Code and also a computerized thing he has called Evox. You can download the Emotion Code book for free at and search for Emotion Code or you can buy it if you prefer a hard copy. Or you can go to someone in your area who does these things and have them do it for you. Probably your quickest option. It really is amazing to be able to release things you don’t want to hang on to. Best wishes to you guys.:)

  • N Hummel - Wow, I never thought that keeping scissors or some other cutting tool could save my child’s life. Thanks so much for this reminder, and for speaking out about your experience. You are obviously a very loving mom!

  • Janis Clark - This is a very important story to tell, and I am proud of you for sharing it even though some will criticize you for it happening at all. I am glad that you realize this sort of thing happens to anyone and everyone in some way. Bless your friend for coming through for you, and hugs to your sweet girl.
    I have had a seatbelt cutter/windshield breaker tool in my glove box for a long time now. We live near the Pacific Ocean and the Fraser River, and I don’t want my kids to drown because the car window won’t open and I can’t break it. That’s what the tool is for, and it has a seatbelt cutter on it in case it’s stuck…

  • Mary @ Parenthood - Several seatbelt cutters made their way into Ottawa cars this Christmas as a direct result of your post.

    Thank you.

  • Bec Thorpe - Hi Sally, I just came back to read this again and I watched the news clip – I’m so proud of you for having the courage and initiative to reach out for wider publicity to spread your message.
    Love to you and your family. Bec

  • Allie Lonber - Wow, what a powerful story! I am so happy this had the outcome it did. Yes, Angels and God were watching over her that day. Thank you for sharing your story. I have a two year old and she is always getting into everything. One day I was in the kitchen and she was playing in the living room just aroud the corner.I can hear everythig from the kitchen. Mollie was babbling and giggiling while she sat and clored. After about 2 min of not hearing her my “mommy gut” told me to go around the corner. Well,there I found she had wrapped the cord from the mini blinds from the front window arond her neck. AS you, I will never forgt her big blue eyes just staring at me as if saying “help Mommy”. I happned to have a knife in my hand from cutting up tomatoes, ran over there and cut through the string. Like Baylor, she was fine physically, thank the lord. But emotionally she was fine after a couple days but me, mama not so much!! It is so important to listen to your inner voice. Thank you for sharing your story! I just made my list for Target tomorrow and on that list is a pair of strong scissors for both of our cars. Again, thank you for sharing and you and Baylor are in my prayers!

  • Rhonda Matlock - Sally, I just saw this and first of all am so very happy that your daughter survived this terrible accident. I have a new Grandson and have never heard of anything like this before. I will be sharing with my daughter as well as on my Facebook page. Thank you for sharing this very important information. God Bless you and your family. Rhonda

  • Tara - Thank you for writing this story. I had the same thing happen to me. My daughter was 3 and i was standing outside the car talking to someone and after a few minutes i heard my oldest daughter scream for me. I opened the door to the seatbealt around my 3yr olds neck and it was tight there was now way i was loosening it. We happened to just get done moving into a new place so i had NO clue where scissors or a knife was. I paniced and ran to a neighbors to get scissors and was able to cut it off her neck before it became to serious. It was one of the scariest moments in my life. I now keep a knife in my vehicle at all time!!

  • D. Glazer - OK scissors going into my and the wife’s car. Thanks for this.

  • Web walk | Cornered Cat - [...] life when every second counts and you really, really need to cut a window curtain cord or a seat belt. One of my teenage sons used his knife to cut his seat belt after a rollover car crash left him [...]

  • » Blog Archive » The Dangers of Seatbelts - [...] Without doubt, seat belts are life savers, but if not used correctly they can pose a danger to children who play with them, as this link to an article describes first hand. [...]

  • very sorry - My heart and prayers go out to you and baylor she is a very beautiful girl, she will get her sparkle back because she has you for a mom.. may GOD bless you both, and i am putting scissors in my car…

  • Victoria Aguirre - From one mother to anther I will keep you and your family in my prayers. This is the first I have heard of this so I am glad to hear that your little angel is doing better. I have to girls and my oldest has given me scares more than I can count. Like you mentioned it is hard to move past it and there will always be a special connection between the two of you since it happened in your presence. I wish you the best and I will be sure to put that set of scissors in my jeep in the morning. God Bless you!!!

  • Kristin - What a powerful message! I am so glad that your daughter is ok and that both of you are healing. We live in the country so I have a survival knife in my car and another knife in my purse, but I never would never have imagined keeping them there for something like this! It is so wonderful of you to share your story so others will know to be prepared. Love, light, and continued healing to each of you.

  • tessa - I’m glad your little girl is better.That’s what you call a freak accident.MY son had one on his bike.He took his handle bar covers (rubbers) off and I thought he could hurt his self but never imagined this, he lost control of his bike and the handle bars went side ways and he flew forward and the handle bar went into his stomach and his intestines fell out on the ground.He was rushed to the hospital and had emergency surgery.The Dr came out an hour later and told me he was safe, he had missed his main artery by half inch, and he would of bled out and died instantly.So if you ever see a kid with no rubbers or worn out ones tell them that is not safe.thanks and good luck

  • Emily Guimares-Gauthier - So so sorry for Baylor and mommy! Great thing to keep scissors in your car. They also make a device that can be life saving, It has a pointed hammer end to smash a window incase you cant get the door or window open, and has a seat belt cutter built in. I believe most Police Officers carry them in the glove box. Its no bigger than a pair of scissors , and can probably be found online by searching!

  • jennifer - My son got tangled in his seatbelt a few years ago while we were driving. He must of been around 2 or 3 at the time and was in a harnessed carseat but had gotten ahold of the normal seatbelt and wrapped it around his neck and arm.. thankfully it was quickly resolved by pulling over and getting it off him, as he hadn’t pulled it super tight.. kids surely do get themselves wrapped up in the craziest stuff, and I’m glad your little girl is okay. :) We have one of those tools that breaks windows and cuts belts, etc in our glovebox. it might come in handy someday.

  • Ethel - I got my worst scare from my daughter when she was two. We were visiting my in-laws and they wanted to go to the pool. I am a non-swimmer, and thought my daughter would enjoy the kiddy pool. She managed to pull out of my hand, and before I could drop what I had in my other hand she had made it to the big pool and jumped in. She still has no fears. Fortunately, a life guard was walking by that spot and reached down and grabbed her head and raised her up enough to pull her out of the water. When I got home, I almost started a ww3 in order to get her into swim lessons at a public pool. They told me, children her age were to afraid of the water. My reply to that was that I wish she were. They found out the first day of lessons how afraid she was and worked extra hard to keep her out and away from the water when they were not ready for her to get in.

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