Brenda with her daughters, Allison and Cecilia

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When Brenda woke up on August 23, 2007, she says she knew she had a busy day ahead of her. Summer vacation was coming to a close, and it was the first day back for teachers at her school. That morning, the rush to get out the door was more frantic than usual, she says.

Brenda and her husband, Gary, got their two young daughters, Allison and Cecilia, dressed and ready to go. Then, in a departure from their regular routine, Brenda loaded 2-year-old Cecilia into her car to take her to the babysitter's house.

"I had a dentist appointment, and I asked Brenda to take Cecilia," Gary says. "I normally took both Cecilia and Allison, dropped Cecilia off at the sitter and Allison off at preschool."

With Cecilia sleeping in the backseat, Brenda pulled out of the driveway at about 6 a.m. When she realized it was too early to drop her youngest child off, she decided to run a quick errand. Brenda stopped at the store to buy doughnuts, a treat for the returning teachers.

After loading her car with snacks, she got on the road that led to her school and drove straight there. With her mind racing through all the things she needed to accomplish before teachers arrived, Brenda got right to work. "I had lots of things to set up," she says. "I was nervous and frantic that morning because it was such an important day to get the school year [off] to a great start."

The day began with a staff meeting, followed by lunch. While chatting with new teachers between meetings, Brenda says she talked about her daughters. "My feeling was it was a great first start," she says. "It was going to be a great school year, and it was a great start to the day."

At about 4 p.m., Brenda was in her office, getting ready to head home when all hell broke loose. "A good teacher friend of mine—sometimes I think it was a blessing it was her—was on her way home, and she walked by my car," Brenda says. "She ran into my office and she said, 'Brenda, your baby's in the car.'"