Whenever I think back to Friday 20th June 2003 – which is still most days – I remember the clear blue sky and warm sunshine, and recall thinking “how could such a tragedy strike in a moment on such a lovely summer’s day?”
Laura was 21 years and 6 months old. The detail seems important. She had just completed her second term of a BA course in Early Childhood Studies at University College Northampton (later to become the University of Northampton). She loved young children, was a natural with them, and they in turn loved her.
Everybody loved Laura. She was lively, witty, talkative and energetic, without any streak of malice or unkindness. Her affinity with animals was amazing to behold. Rabbits that growled at me, rolled over when she picked them up.
To us, Laura was a joy to know. She was changing into an attractive, confident woman, with a wide differing circle of friends, and an important close and developing relationship with her boyfriend. We had left behind the moods and tempers of adolescence and reached adulthood.
Laura was good at administrative tasks and quickly took to holiday work in my general practice surgery. She had spent nine months working in the practice during a gap year between school and university.
She was popular with all of her work colleagues with her ability, wit, stories and reflections on life.
She had arrived before 9am on Friday 20th June, to start work as usual, upstairs in the administration office. We passed each other and shared a mock ignoring stare – all part of the fun. At 10.15 I was urgently called because she had collapsed. I rushed upstairs, thinking she might have fainted. One look at her lying on the floor, unresponsive, blue and still, made me realise that she had suffered a cardio-respiratory arrest.
It is a surreal nightmare, for any medical professional, to be faced with the task of having to resuscitate their own child. You flit between professional action and unbelieving distress. I could only withdraw when the paramedics arrived to assist my colleagues.
Resuscitation was stopped at 11.45 in the hospital A&E Department. Instinctively I cut off some of her beautiful hair to keep forever. I removed her jewellery to keep close to us, then waited for the arrival of my wife Joan and son Matthew (then aged 17).
I have so many continuing memories of the time after Laura’s death, but one I will share is that the following day, I felt an intense need to go and bring all her personal belongings and effects back from her house where she lived, to our home. This was particularly true of her little car that we had bought for her a year or two before.
And three years on? She is always in our thoughts. Her bedroom contains all her stuff. Photographs of her – alone, with family, and with friends – are all over the house. Memorials to her are abundant. Rose bushes, trees, wind-chimes, stained glass sunflowers. From our garden we can see the flag flying on the village church tower and hear the bells on Sundays. Every week we place flowers on her grave, bring her up to date with news and family events, before returning to life in hand.