Family Traditions: How the Petit Family Tragedy Brought My Family Together

Posted by Liz Linehan 20.20pc on July 16, 2012


Like many events in history – September 11th, the Kennedy assassination, Pearl Harbor, and others – most Cheshire residents remember where we were and what we were doing when we learned that tragedy had struck our neighbors, the Petit family. I had an interesting perspective. I was in St. Mary’s Hospital undergoing a test to see if I had a hole in my heart when Dr. Petit was brought in to the emergency room. Watching the news as I awaited my results, I was slowly learning about that morning’s events while the nurses and staff were buzzing that Dr. Petit was being brought in by ambulance. I heard the commotion as he was brought in, and although I was scared for my own health, I was instantly drawn into the commotion, caring for the well-being of my neighbor whom I had not yet met. I found out that day that I did not have a hole in my heart after all, but sadly and ironically, the events of that day placed a hole in Dr. Petit’s heart that will last forever


In the months that followed, Cheshire residents banded together, and we showed our support for Dr. Petit and his family. Cheshire’s Lights of Hope lit up driveways, pathways, and roads, giving a silent reminder of the bright lights that were the two beautiful Petit children, Hayley and Michaela, and their mother Jennifer. I remember weeping as we strolled around town to look at the beautiful displays, holding my husband’s hand tightly. We were hoping to soon have a family of our own, and the thought of losing a family at the hands of evil was painfully unimaginable.

In 2008, my husband and I ran the first annual Petit Road Race, and started the tradition of holding hands as we passed through the finish line. I wept a bit, with that tragedy still a recent memory. As we crossed the finish line, I said a prayer for the Petit girls, and I asked for their help as we struggled to start a family of our own. Two weeks later, on my birthday, I was pregnant with my daughter Zoe. 

The next year, we weren’t able to run in the road race, but we attended and took Zoe with us. Although we didn’t run, we still crossed the finish line together, as a family, holding hands,

This year, we were back. This weekend, we ran the race as a complete family. My husband Brian pushed our son Connor in one stroller, and I had Zoe in the other. We once again held hands as we crossed the finish line, and once again, tears welled up in my eyes. I am so honored that we can pay tribute to this wonderful family by participating in this event together. I had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Petit after the race, and I told him of our tradition of crossing the finish line as a family in honor of his. His face softened, his head tilted to one side, and for a split second I thought maybe – just maybe – stories like ours are the patches which will help to slowly repair the hole in his heart left by the tragic loss of his daughters and wife.

I admire your strength, Dr. Petit. See you next year.