The Monika Skrzypkowski Tribute
April 19th, 1993 - December 7th, 2008
My thoughts and realization of what has happened to our Monia are with me at all times, and having it put down on the paper is extremely hard. It is another heavy milestone. Although I have thought about it a million times, when time came to write it I still was not ready. Will I ever be ready?
On December 6th, 2008 Monika was fifteen and celebrating her boyfriend, Anton's, seventeenth birthday when a seventeen year old drunk driver took her life. As she and four friends went out for a walk, she called us for a ride home eight minutes before 11:00pm. Her dad picked up the phone and he was the last who heard her voice. I only heard his response, "Okay Monisiu, I am coming". Usually it was I who would take a drive to pick her up, but this time Artur, my husband, seemed really eager to go. I asked him to wait for me as I would be coming with him, and when I took a minute he got impatient. I could feel concern in his voice when he said, "I just want to pick up my daughter". He told me later that at that moment the feeling of need to be with her overwhelmed him.
Monika and her friends were crossing the street back to Anton's house after she called us. They looked both ways. There were no cars, so they crossed two lanes and stopped on a quite wide yellow median space, waiting for couple of cars to pass before crossing second half. Unexpectedly, a speeding vehicle came onto them from the opposite direction and hit Monika, throwing her up in the air, lifting her out of her boots and detaching the hood from her coat, before she fell unconscious on the asphalt. No one else was hurt. The driver did not stop.
On the four lane suburban street with a few feet wide median line and no other cars going same direction, the drunk driver managed to hit and kill an innocent pedestrian with his car.
As we were getting close to Rt. 83, we saw a police car's signal from afar. When we pulled to the intersection, a bright white light struck my eyes. We looked to the right and saw an ambulance, a fire truck, a policeman and some people on the side of the road. We did not know what had happened, but it was worrisome that it was so close to Anton's house. We drove up to the house not suspecting that our daughter had been hurt. As we pulled over, my husband called Monika's phone, and when he got, "Hello...Hello...hold on someone is calling me, let me call you right back"...he thought she was going to do that, without realizing that it was a recording to fool her friends. I asked the ladies standing there what had happened. Instead of an answer, I got a question: "Isn't it your child laying there?" I can't even describe the feelings rushing thru me. I just called my husband's name twice and ran to the middle of the street, where a policeman stopped me and asked who I was. When he asked the guys if that was Monika and they nodded their heads, I realized that the police and the ambulance arrived just few minutes before we did, and they did not even know whom they were treating. I saw Monika down on the middle of the median, not moving, and people around her. I got to her side as my husband tried to find out what happened. All we got was, "It was a hit and run", and that she was unconscious. I looked at her, at my baby, who had grown to a beautiful fifteen year old girl with big brown eyes with long lashes, full of life and compassion, the one who would not hurt anyone, who wanted to always help others, give advice, proud of herself when she succeeded, laying there on the cold street, in the moonlight, surrounded by people in uniforms and flashing red, blue and yellow lights of emergency vehicles. Never, ever, would I imagine seeing such a painful picture. As I was standing over her when others were kneeling, I saw her jeans being cut thru and her legs twice their size. All of a sudden on that cold December night I got hot, my hands and legs began to shake, my lips and eyes twinkling. I felt my whole body falling apart inside. I thought I was going to scream. I wanted to scream...but then unexpectedly, a cold shiver embraced me, and I totally shut down. Everything within me just shot down. I became an impatient observer, who realized that I simply could not take any attention away from my daughter. I had one thing: hope. Not for a moment did I doubt that she would make it. I had no idea how hard she was hit at the time. I only saw her friends comforting Monia's boyfriend Anton, who rocked back and forth sitting on the curb and crying his eyes out. I remember my husband walking back and forth, peaking at Monia thru his hands covering his eyes, and repeatedly saying, "This doesn't happen, this doesn't happen". I wondered why paramedics were not putting her on the bed, why were they not putting her into the ambulance yet, why were they not taking her to the hospital yet. And when they finally did, I prayed on the way, but words were not coming out right. I kept repeating the same verses, same words several times. My husband told me then that Monia was not breathing, but I still had hope. She simply couldn't die. It was impossible. When we finally got to the hospital, we were told we needed to wait in the room, but there was no stopping us. Artur grabbed me by the hand, and we got to her bedside. I kept rubbing her feet and talking to her, asking her to not give up, to fight for her life. They let me hold her hand, so I moved to her left side and kept talking, and talking, and talking...."Please don't give up Monia, please fight, fight baby, fight for your life, you can do it baby, you can do it, please"... but she couldn't. At 12:07am, a little over an hour after she was hit, the paramedics gave up. She was not responding. And everything went numb...I was given ice chips then and I said to nurse, "When I was giving birth to her I chewed ice chips...and now in her death in the hospital I am here chewing ice chips again". And oh my God, how different this experience is. The circle of life - Monia's circle of life has just closed. And a split second decision could have changed it, but there is no going back...how ironic, how unfair, how irresponsible, and how DEADLY!!
We had a wonderful day on December 6th, 2008. Monia was happy and glowing. We always drove to Polish school on Saturdays, and so we did that day. After she was done with school, she patiently waited for me, as I had been instructing a little children's folk dance group. The same group that she had been part of since the age of four, until she advanced to the older ensemble, POLANIE and had a different schedule. As always being very helpful, she got her siblings Kasia (4) and Adam (6) all dressed up and ready to go. She and her brother Martin (13), helped to pack up the car with several bags and backpacks. She was a big sister. On our way back, she called her boyfriend and was really happy. Her, as some called it, baby fat laugh filled the whole car, and I was laughing with her. She was supposed to meet Anton for his birthday with his family and some friends at his house later on. When we came home Monia and Martin helped with soup, while I was decorating the Christmas tree with Adam. Kasia and her dad enjoyed each other. We always sat together for dinner, but that day for some reason I decided, "Let's leave the soup for little ones to cool off and have it just four of us". I mentioned that this is how it used to be before Adam and Kasia were born. Today with tears in my eyes I think: "This is how it was when Monia was with us". Before Monika was driven to Anton's house she asked me if I had any nice shirts, and again unusually so, I told her, "Check my closet, you may take anything you like". How glad I am today that I said that. So she did. She picked my black blouse and wore it when she died. As I wrote in her eulogy, "It was a comfort, because I knew she had me with her the moment she flew".
It has been 9 months since Monia's death, but it feels as intense as a few weeks just passed. Time has stood for us since that day, and our lives have changed forever. The music is gone; the teenager's giggles are gone, big sister and little sister make-up sessions are gone, laughing sessions by the computer are so missed, evening teenagers talks are no more. Our home is filled with emptiness and sorrow. We lost our child, our only brown eyed child, our spring, our dancer, music and art lover, and we lost our future. Although for each one of us, it is an individual struggle that we have to face each day, the support given to us by AAIM and Twyla Blakely is greatly appreciated. Month to month we are waiting to talk to others who had joined the circle of victims before and after we did. Thank you so much for sharing your stories and experiences with us, thank you for advice and understanding.
Margaret & Artur Skrzypkowski Martin, Adam & Kasia