Warning: This story contains details some readers may find disturbing.
Rosemary Victor hasn’t been back to her family home or the tree-lined street it sits on after her 15-year-old daughter’s life was taken in a collision when she was on her way to school.
“I don’t want to go back to where I was living,” she said. “I can’t go into a house where my child is no more.”
Anjelica John died in hospital after she was struck by a driver in Montreal’s Pierrefonds-Roxboro borough last month. The young teenager was waiting for her school bus on Lalande Boulevard when a car careened into a pole, before hitting her and veering into another vehicle.
Montreal police say the investigation into the fatal crash remains ongoing. At the time, police said they believed the driver, a man in his 50s, lost control behind the wheel.
Before she left the house the morning of June 17 for the last time, John had breakfast and prayed alongside her mother. Less than a minute after her daughter bid goodbye and headed outside, Victor described hearing a big sound that immediately drew her attention.
Victor ran out, her dad quickly following her, to find wafts of dust and cars scattered across the road. She immediately went to aid who she thought could be a driver or passenger injured on the grass.
“I didn’t want to believe my eyes, what I was seeing — that was my child,” she said. “I screamed and screamed. I tried my best to bring her back.”
Neighbours quickly poured outside and called emergency services. Victor tried to take her only child into her arms when she realized the extent of her injuries, ranging from her head to her legs.
“She was broken and she was bleeding,” Victor said.
John responded briefly to her voice, she said, before she lost consciousness. She wasn’t breathing, but her heartbeat was still there. Her mother was scared to hold her in fear of hurting her.
A passenger went to get Victor’s husband, who was sleeping after working the night shift. A fire truck arrived at the scene and first responders immediately tended to John.
“Everything happened in five to 10 minutes and she was immediately taken to hospital,” Victor said. “Later, I found her shoes across the street.”
The death of John was confirmed at the hospital, but Victor said she had prayed for a miracle. Her daughter looked like a different person from the trauma of the crash and she held her hand in her last moments.
“We were all close to her,” she said.
The 15-year-old girl was the couple’s only child. They were close as a family, living what Victor described as a “happy and quiet life” up until their daughter was taken from them.
John was not only a good person and student, she was also measured for her age. She helped around the house and did laundry for her mother since she was working nights. She was devoted to her faith and never missed church.
“Just like that in one day, everything changed,” Victor said. “And here we are feeling very empty without her.”
Outpouring of support
The death of John has prompted calls for traffic-calming measures in the area in the West Island by neighbours and concerned citizens. Victor wants to see more protection for pedestrians like speed bumps and reduced speed limits on Lalande Boulevard, which she believe should also be turned into a one-way street because it is narrow.
“Many times I thought it was very dangerous for the children,” she said. “But it really happened one day and it was my child.”
Officials are taking action, she added, and she believes something will be done soon to secure the street.
“I think something should immediately be done,” she said.
The investigation is still ongoing, though Victor explained that she will not be reading the police report. Those details will hurt her more, if she has to imagine how her daughter spent those moments. They also pray for peace for the driver who was behind the wheel.
The last month has been very tough for Victor and her husband. But the loss of their daughter also led to outpouring of support from their church and the community. The parcels of food have kept the grieving family from having to cook for the past month. Calls have also came in from strangers in the days and weeks that followed.
“I think at least 150 people came to see us,” she said.
A makeshift garden with an ornamental angel has been set up at the site where John was struck on Lalande Boulevard. It has been too painful for Victor to return to the street, but her husband caught a glimpse of a young boy carrying a heavy can to water the flowers laid in her honour.
“He had tears looking at the scene,” she said.
They hope their daughter’s name will live on. Victor said she wants to help other children in need in any way, whether they are sick or hungry.
“I want to be there for children,” she said.