State 'Children's Flower' Would Honor Cheshire Home Invasion Victim

FEBRUARY 25, 2015

HARTFORD — The fragrant and tender blooms of four o'clocks were a favorite of the youngest victim of a brutal, 2007 home invasion in Cheshire.

Lawmakers held a hearing Wednesday on a plan to designate four o'clocks, or Mirabilis jalapa, as the official state children's flower in honor of Michaela Petit. The flowers come in vivid shades of pink, red and yellow, in addition to white.

House Bill 5174 was proposed by Rep. Al Adinolfi, a Republican from Cheshire who lived near the Petit family. He said Wednesday that he expects the legislation to receive strong support in the General Assembly.

The idea is being championed by Michaela's father, Dr. William Petit Jr. He was the only survivor of the home invasion, which also resulted in the death of his wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, and the couple's oldest daughter, Hayley.

The four-o'clocks that Michaela and her father had planted in the family garden were among the few items that could be salvaged from the Petit home, which had been set on fire.

We should not ever forget the so many young victims of violent crimes. Michaela's four-o'clocks may help to keep them in our hearts.

"There are many serious issues facing our state but this gesture to honor a sweet little girl who was taken too soon is a simple way to honor her and inspire other children to participate and help others," Petit wrote in a letter to the committee on government administration and elections.

Connecticut already has a state flower, the mountain laurel. But designating four-o'clocks as the official children's flower as a tribute to Michaela Petit will help spread her message of generosity and kindness. "Before her murder, Michaela had discovered Gandhi,'' her father recalled. "She was known to be a quiet friend to all and a defender of the underdog."

The Petit Family Foundation has collected seeds from Michaela's flowers and planted them in nearly a dozen "Michaela's Gardens" across the state, including at the Killingly library, at the Yale University Marsh Botanical Garden in New Haven and in a rooftop garden at the Connecticut Science Center in Hartford.

"Michaela's four-o'clocks are in the hearts of many," Victoria Scott, executive director of the Michaela's Garden project, said. "They transcend all barriers."

The bill will be voted on at a later date.