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In the blink of an eye
A mother's tragic loss offers hope to other grieving parents
By M. Susanne Hinkle -   Mar 16, 2006

Sandra Washington stands by the cross made by her husband at the site where the fatal accident occured in 2003.
Susanne Hinkle
Sandra Washington stands by the cross made by her husband at the site where the fatal accident occured in 2003.

In the blink of an eye, you could lose everything. "I will never forget that night," said Sandra Washington of St. Rose.

On the eve of February 2, 2003, Washington's children, Rachel, Samantha, Allen, Jr. and Alandra, were on their way home from a church gathering when something went terribly wrong. "We don't know what caused Rachel to run off the road. We never did find out," said Washington.

Rachel, 21, was driving her brother and sisters from church when something caused her to lose control of the car and drive into the canal that runs adjacent to Airline Drive in Destrehan. When the children failed to return home from their church activity, the mother of four knew something tragic had happened.

"I called a friend that was also leaving church to see if she had seen the kids. She said that she saw that a car or something had gone off Airline Drive into the canal but the kids were probably okay. I wasn't satisfied with that. I got a feeling that something was wrong." Sandra and her husband went out to the canal to make sure it wasn't their children. "My husband took my hand and led me across Airline to the canal. My legs felt like lead. They were so heavy. I knew in my heart that my children were at the bottom of that canal."

On that horrific night, Washington and husband Allen watched with fear as rescue crews sent divers to the bottom of the canal in search of victims, "I will never forget the look on the state trooper’s face when he looked at my husband and nodded that it was my children," said Sandra. Sandra and Allen Washington lost all four of their children in the blink of an eye. It was a night they would never forget.

In the end, the close-knit Washington family was torn apart but not broken.

In the three years that have passed, there have been good days and bad days for the Washingtons. "I was determined to make good of this awful situation," said Sandra.
In an effort to heal and help other families that have experienced the loss of a child, the Washingtons are starting a grief support group. "The name of the group is "Loving & Living Beyond the Loss -- Circle of Support,” said Sandra.

“We are going to start meeting at the St. Charles Parish Library in St. Rose. Our goal is to use our experience to help others recover from their own family tragedies," said Sandra as her eyes filled with tears. "My husband and I want to keep moving forward and not let this tragedy ruin what we have left of our lives. Those kids died for a reason. Maybe it was so that we could start this group."
"We don't want the group to become a depressing meeting of parents experiencing a loss. We want to do activities and discuss things in a way that makes people feel good when they leave the group. We want it to be a positive way for parents to share good times with other parents who have experienced the same kind of loss," she described.

Experiencing personal tragedy has made the Washingtons realize that it is vitally important to have a circle of support from those who can attest to experiencing the death of a child. It is our belief that by faith we will overcome. As a faith-based group, we hope to assist in the journey as we continue to make the most of our lives and the memories of those we have loved and miss from our presence. Through meeting monthly it is our desire to gain insight and understanding of our emotions which we believe will foster a commitment to continuously build stronger families as we reconstruct our lives and serve our community."

Allen and Sandra wish to create a well-rounded system of support for parents who have experienced the death of a child while empowering them with the needed resources to continue loving and living beyond the loss.

Anyone interested in participating in the group can contact Allen or Sandra at 504-305-1380 for more information and the next meeting date.

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