An unborn baby cannot cry, but it can inspire his parents to devotedly, and tirelessly, and completely attend to his every need. An unborn baby cannot be held by anything but the womb it is growing in, but it can become the symbol of a family, of a community, of an event. An unborn baby cannot understand anger, or sadness, or loss, but it can provoke those feelings in the people who love him, and even in those who don’t.
A newborn baby builds on the power of the unborn by becoming a squealing, kicking, suckling representation of that pure but wily phenomenon we call hope.
Life can lull you into a sense of control, tease you with patterns that indicate predictability, comfort you with reliable cause-and-effect scenarios. Then you are reminded that the world is ultimately random. You see that fate or destiny or luck ends in a result that can be traced back to a single, seemingly simple, decision.
These majestic, awesome, inspiring, and utterly defeating aspects of what it means to be a human among other humans recently came together in one story. The story of one young couple in one neigborhood of one city. The story of one unborn baby whose mother could no longer feel him moving in her womb. The story of a decision to get in a car, and go to a hospital.
Nathan (Nachman) and Raizy Glauber were both 21 years old. They had recently married, and were living in Williamsburg, a neighborhood of Brooklyn. Raizy was 24 weeks pregnant with their first child. On the night of Saturday, March 2, Raizy became concerned about abdominal pains she was experiencing.
I imagine she felt like I would have, when I was a first-time mother. Nervous, scared, panicked, even. Please don’t let there be anything wrong with the baby. There can’t be anything wrong with the baby.
Raizy and Nathan decided to go to the hospital that very night. It was their baby, after all. You don’t go to sleep and call in the morning when there’s a question about your baby.
Around midnight, they called a livery cab to take them to the hospital. I can see Raizy sitting in the back seat, clutching her rounded stomach with one hand, gripping her husband’s hand with the other. Please don’t let there be anything wrong with the baby, they’re both thinking. Please.
During those same opening minutes of Sunday, Julio Acevedo sat down behind the wheel of a BMW that was not his. He pulled onto the streets of Brooklyn. He began driving at speeds estimated at 60mph.
The cab carrying Raizy and Nathan approached an intersection. Mr. Acevedo drove the BMW towards that same intersection, and did not stop at it. Mr. Acevedo slammed the BMW into the Glaubers’ cab, impacting with a sound witnesses likened to a bomb exploding.
Nathan was pinned inside the cab. Raizy was tossed from the vehicle and landed under a tractor-trailer. The cab driver was found relatively unharmed thanks to his air bags.
Mr. Acevedo survived, jumped out of the BMW, and fled the scene on foot.
As metal crunched and sirens wailed and crowds gathered, baby Glauber clung to life inside his dying mother. The two of them were rushed to the hospital, where doctors performed an emergency Cesarean section. The baby was born alive.
His mother had been pronounced dead on arrival, the same diagnosis his father received at a different hospital.
But the baby was alive. The baby became a beacon of light to his grandparents, to his family’s close-knit Orthodox community, to anyone who heard the story of his parents’ deaths. They’re gone, but at least he is here. We cannot take care of them, but we can raise him. Three pounds of thin flesh and incomplete bones that took the impact, withstood the trauma, escaped from death.
Then Monday dawned, and death found the newborn who should have still been unborn. He joined his parents at a burial site, and in whatever afterlife their Jewish faith told them they would enjoy, and as a statistic of a life cut unfairly, excessively short. The light of their world, the light of the world, snuffed out.