As the Christmas holiday draws near, this weekend will be busy with family get-togethers and holiday parties.
But in Pulaski County, there will be family members gathering for a different reason: to remember a loved one who won't be with them this year.
Tricia Sloma spoke with the father of Alivia Stahl, the 9-year-old girl who died along with her twin brothers as she was crossing the highway to board her bus.
In my series, "Never Again: Preventing Bus Stop Tragedies," we've explored what can be done to stop the unnecessary deaths of school children. While lawmakers draft new legislation, the grieving continues for an entire community.
We are approaching some difficult firsts: the first Christmas and New Year without Alivia Stahl and her brothers, Mason and Xzavier Ingle. But also, the first birthdays without them.
Her father says Alivia was excited for her big double digit birthday on Saturday, when she would have turned 10.
I spoke with Alivia’s father. He's still angry and grief-stricken over the death of his daughter.
Here’s Michael Stahl in his own words.
"She made this at school, if I remember correctly," Stahl says, pointing to a Christmas ornament. "She brought it home for Christmas so we could hang it on the tree. Actually, when we were getting ready to do the tree, I was going to get the ornaments and stuff, and this was the very first thing I saw. So I had a bit of a breakdown in the garage."
"She was a 9-year-old little girl who had a huge heart," Stahl says. "She was going to be 10. She was excited to turn double digits. It's all she could talk about all year. 'Daddy, I'm going to be 10. I'm going to be double digits.' You're talking from the minute her birthday was over last year to all the way through. She was like, 'I'm going to be double digits. I'm going to be double digits.' She was so excited for that. It's hard and it hurts."
"Alivia doesn't get to have that. She doesn't get to have turning 10. She doesn't get to have her favorite holiday."
"No sweet 16, no prom, no graduation, no college, no first boyfriend, no getting married, no children, no grandchildren, no life."
"There's no greater love than a parent and a child. She doesn't get to have that," Stahl says. "I'm kind of in a state of denial. Like I keep waiting for her to come around the corner and say, 'Hey daddy, I love you,' and run up to me and give me a hug, and it doesn't happen and it hurts and it's painful."
"My world was flipped upside down. I was angry, I was hurt. I was just asking why? This can't be real. This can't be. She can't be gone. My daughter can't be gone."
"It's been really hard getting up to that day. I'll be going out to the cemetery on her birthday to see her and spend some time with her."
"Nothing will bring Alivia back into my world. Nothing will bring Mason and Xzavier back. Nothing will bring back many other children that have been taken from us way too soon in these kinds of situations. But maybe, just maybe, none of their lives will be in vain, and legislators can set their party status aside and focus on what is important for our kids and their safety," Stahl hopes.
Alivia's father feels that unless there is a change in legislation, what happened to his child could also happen to yours. Lawmakers are meeting in a matter of weeks to address this important topic.
When the new session starts in January, there are plans for school bus safety legislation. Indiana Senator Randy Head is exploring curbside drop-off and pick-up legislation, while Representative Jim Pressel is pursuing stop arm cameras. Increased penalties for traffic violators are also in the mix.
State Senator Randy Head
200 W. Washington Street
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Phone: 800-382-9467 or 317-232-9400
State Representative Jim Pressel
Indiana House of Representatives
200 W. Washington Street
Indianapolis, IN 46204800-382-9841 or 317-234-9380
I'll follow the developments in Indianapolis as we continue this push for change.