Danielle Baker

Danielle was the oldest of two. She was born April, 25 1984. When she came into the world, she brought so much happiness to so many people. She was the first granddaughter and first grandchild to our family. She brightened up my day with her smiles and her laughter. Danielle had developed into a young, beautiful, black woman who had her entire life in front of her. My daughter was going to make a difference in the world. She was intellectual and a problem solver. Her five-year plan that she left behind as a result of the contained both personal and business goals she wanted to accomplish. Her gifts and talents included being a good listener. One of the most important qualities was that she had a very close walk with God. Her perception of him was so unique. She would speak of conversations that she had with God. I remember Danielle telling me that she would stay up all night long trying to figure it all out. She realized God is the creator of all...but wondered where did God come from?

Danielle became a mother on October, 31 2005, when she birthed a beautiful baby girl named Jasmin Rayne. Daniele was an excellent mother, who adapted to motherhood very well. Danielle loved Jasmin so much; I would sometimes hear her say, "I love my baby, I love my baby, I love my baby so much" over and over again. As she would hug her, I would say, "She knows you love her!" During Danielle's pregnancy with Jasmin I gave her some words of wisdom: "If you love your child from the womb, you will always have a connection with them. On the night of the tragedy, Jasmin was in her crib sleeping, and I heard her whimper three times. I went to the door of her bedroom while she was asleep. At that very moment, I believe she felt her mother's departure.

After the birth of Jasmin, Danielle had a very hard decision to make to complete her college education. She had landed an internship with Chicago Talk Radio, but she also had to return to school in Philadelphia to complete her degree with a two- month old baby. Danielle was torn between her child and her education. Being the planner that she was, Danielle searched out a way to do all of it. She took on the internship and traveled out of town by plane every Wednesday morning to Philadelphia for the math class for completion of her Bachelor's Degree. I admired her so very much; she was a young mom who wanted to experience everything about motherhood. When I say everything, I mean everything. Danielle enjoyed breastfeeding her baby. She would even leave behind breast milk for Jasmin when she flew out to Philadelphia on her busy Wednesdays.

Danielle completed her internship with Chicago Talk Radio, and she received her degree in 2006 from Temple University in Broadcast Journalism. She was offered another internship from Chicago Talk Radio, with The BBC in London. Gladly, she accepted and prepared herself to leave to take on the chance of a lifetime. This was a goal she had dreamt about that it had come true.

After returning from London, Danielle started to do volunteer work, volunteering at Deborah's Place for homeless women. She would bake for them and organize woman's groups teaching crochet. The blankets the class produced under Danielle's instruction for newborn babies were donated to the Marillac House in Chicago, Illinois. She would speak to young children to encourage them to read, set goals for themselves, and to obey their parents. She would inform them that their parents had the best interest for them.

My daughter's last words were about her family. She talked about her father and how he was in her corner and how he tooted her horn. She spoke of how in her years of growing up she looked for a best friend, and she had one all along- her sister, "Tiffany". Danielle would also talk about how much she loved her baby. She spoke of how I was her best friend and "she was mine". We had gone through all the hard years together. She was a young adult with her head on straight.

This was my child, this was my child, I say, this was my child. A Gift from God, and her life was stolen from her by someone else's negligence.

The police arrived and told me that my daughter had been in a crash and she didn't make it. I was taken to Stroger's Hospital where the staff was waiting for me in a room to ask me questions. They asked me to describe Danielle physically. I proceeded to give her physical features, not knowing what they wanted. At that point, I asked them, "Where is Danielle?" I remember telling them, "I want to see her". They told me that I couldn't see her and I asked, "Why?" Then they told me her car had exploded, and she was burn beyond recognition. I told them my child didn't have a chance. They ask me to get a copy of dental records and bring them to the coroner. I remember telling my sisters that we could leave, as they couldn't do anymore to help us. I felt like I was in a nightmare. I kept thinking, "This is a bad dream". "How could this happen?" I had to break the news to rest of the family, her father and our parents.

That night, my husband finally reached home, and I remember telling him she was in a crash. He asked me if she were she ok, and I had to tell him she was killed by a drunk driver, that her car exploded and that she was burned beyond recognition. I remember taking him in my arms, and he fell to the floor as his brother-in-law picked him up and put him in the bed. My daughter, Tiffany, was away at school, and she received the news from someone else- the information had spread quickly. She called home, screaming and crying, "Mommy, where is Danielle?" "Was she in an accident, is she ok?" I had to tell her she was killed. She dropped the phone and I could hear her screaming in a rage at the top of voice. I remember calling the school counselor to get someone over to her dorm; I informed them that she had received news that her sister was killed in a car crash by a drunk driver.

We, as family, have expressed what Danielle was to us, but what about Jasmin? Jasmin is the victim that has lost the most. We, as the family, knew Danielle, but what about Jasmin? One day she will realize we are not her parents and that she had a mother. All children long to know their mother. How will this affect her? Jasmin's mother was taken away from her, due to someone else's negligence. I pray to God that He will give us wisdom and the right words to tell her about her mother and that this will not affect her psychologically.

The lost of child is a hole in the heart that never heals. She was my first -born, I love her.

Calmette Griffin Baker

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