A Mother's Mission Is Part of the Healing Process

Brenda Slaby wants to warn parents about the dangers of kids in hot cars.

ByABC News via logo
October 2, 2008, 8:17 AM

Oct. 2, 2008 — -- A hummingbird feeder is what Brenda Slaby and her husband have to remind them of their 2-year-old daughter, Cecilia, after Slaby accidentally left the child in a hot car that resulted in her death more than a year ago.

"On the anniversary, we went to a family cottage and we hung a hummingbird feeder. And there was a hummingbird right next to it waiting. And so now we can think of Cecilia being right there with us," said Slaby, who said Cecilia loved hummingbirds.

Slaby still holds unbearable guilt about her daughter's death.

"I know I can't blame myself because I know I didn't consciously do this. I know that. But in my heart... how does a mom do that? "

Today, the former Ohio middle school assistant principal broke her yearlong silence in the hopes of preventing other parents from going through the same tragedy, though some of her friends thought she shouldn't approach the subject.

She appeared on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" Wednesday and also talked to ABC News TV affiliate WCPO in Cincinnati.

"The advice of all my friends was, 'It's died down. Don't start it up again.' I had heard about two kids dying in Texas. I was at a local grocery store one day soon after that and the car I pulled up next to had a baby in the back seat right up from my house and I think it was at that moment in time that I said, 'I have to do this.' If I can help anybody out there, then whatever criticism I get it's going to be worth it. I couldn't stay quiet any longer," Slaby told WCPO.

Slaby's nightmare began in August 2007, when she backed her sport utility vehicle up to the school entrance. She unloaded doughnuts from her vehicle and walked past Cecilia, sitting in the back seat on the driver's side, more than a half dozen times, as recorded by surveillance video.

The then-40-year-old Slaby went into the school at 7 a.m. Eight hours later someone discovered the toddler in the parking lot and teachers frantically called 911 before attempting CPR. But it was too late for Cecilia.

Police said the temperature inside the SUV could have reached 140 degrees because the temperature outside hovered near 100 degrees all day.