Eric’s Accidental Shooting Incident, as narrated by his father, Romeo S. Santos

It was around six o’clock on a Friday afternoon. The date was March 17, 1989, Saint Patrick’s Day. My wife and I just came home from work. Our son, Eric, age 11, asked permission to play at Jason’s house. My wife started preparing dinner while I cleared the dishes from the dishwasher.

Jason, age 12, was Eric’s best friend. He lived in the same neighborhood about five houses away from ours. I had taken them to places like Knotts Berry Farm, Disneyland, and San Diego Zoo.

It was only fifteen minutes after the two boys left when the phone rang. I picked up the phone and it was Jason’s voice on the other line. "Mr. Santos, Eric was shot! I already called 911!" Jason’s voice was trembling and at the same time sobbing.

All I said was a loud "WHAT?" and banged the phone. It felt like the roof collapsed on me. My wife looked at me and asked, "Who was on the phone? Why is your face so pale? What happened?"

I didn’t answer any of her questions. I ran towards the door while she followed me. The moment the door opened, we saw several police cars already lined up on the streets and heard an ambulance blowing its siren. My wife and I held hands while running towards Jason’s house screaming: "Oh, my God! Oh, my God! Please save our son!"

When we reached the house, we took big giant steps on the stairway to the second floor. We saw our son lying on the bedroom floor with his shirt pulled up. The moment I saw the bullet hole on his stomach, my jaw locked. I was shaking. I wanted to scream, but no sound would come out of me. My whole body seemed frozen.

When the police officer interviewed me, I just looked at him blankly. He asked for my son’s name and age. I tried opening my mouth but nothing would come out of it. I was speechless. Literally, my jaw was locked.

I saw my wife lift Eric’s head onto her lap and asked him to follow her pray the "Our Father". That’s when I found out that women were much stronger than men in a situation like this. I was absolutely helpless. When Eric was put in a stretcher, I wanted to go with him but I could not move. My whole body was stiff like a rock. It was my wife who accompanied our son in the ambulance to the trauma center.

After the paramedics and the police left, some neighbors prayed over me, gave me a glass of water, and tried to calm me down. It was at this point that I gained my composure and made the loudest scream. The big heavy load in my chest was released and I felt much relieved.

Someone volunteered to take me to the trauma center, but there was no more trace of the ambulance. We contacted all the trauma centers around the nearby cities. Finally, we tracked down my son’s whereabouts. He was taken to Saint Mary’s Hospital in Long Beach. He was about to be wheeled to the operating room when I arrived.

The surgeon explained the critical aspect of the surgery, considering Eric’s small body frame and the part of his body that was hit by the bullet. Then he asked me if I wanted to say goodbye to my son. It was only then that I was able to hug and kiss my son. I told him that I love him so much!

The surgery took several hours. It was the longest and most agonizing wait that we ever experienced. We prayed and prayed for hours while he was undergoing surgery. Finally the long wait ended when the surgeon came out and explained why the surgery took so long.

First, the bullet hit his arm, bore a hole in his arm, and then the bullet penetrated into his stomach. The bullet grazed his aorta, which could have killed him almost instantly. After that, the bullet ricocheted sixteen times into his intestines, and then finally lodged into his bowel.

While Eric was in the post surgery recovery room, Jason came with his father. He looked so scared and was still crying. Between sobs, he narrated how the accident took place:

Jason invited Eric to go to his parents’ bedroom. Jason opened a drawer and took out a 38-caliber gun that belonged to his father. He was so excited showing the gun to Eric. Not knowing that the gun was loaded, he accidentally clicked the trigger that was pointed at Eric. The gun fired hitting my son on the stomach.

My wife and I took turns beside Eric’s bed at the intensive care unit with permission from the ICU staff. There was a Catholic chapel at the hospital where we kept vigil and prayed for God’s help. I called all our relatives and friends to start a chain of prayers for Eric, including the Catholic school he attended. The Pastor offered all the daily Masses for Eric’s recovery. There was also a continuous recitation of the Holy Rosary.

For seven days that he was at the intensive care unit, I did not see any sign of improvement on my son’s condition. He looked so pale. He was always asleep. I was watching the IV fluid dripping and all the monitoring devices around him.

It was Good Friday. This was exactly a week after his surgery. I went to the hospital chapel. It was so quiet. I went straight to the Crucifix where Jesus was hanging on the Cross. With my arms outstretched, I talked to Him in a begging tone of voice:

"My Lord, Jesus, I truly believe you are a living God. You died on the Cross to save us from our sins and to bring us to eternal salvation. I am begging you to please save my son’s life!"

Then I turned to the Image of Our Blessed Mother, and said:

"My dear Blessed Virgin Mary, please intercede for me to your Son, Jesus. I know He will listen to you being His Mother. I believe in the power of your intercession." Then I sobbed. Meanwhile, I felt someone pat my shoulders and when I looked up, I saw two sister nuns.

"Sir, we heard everything you asked for. That was a beautiful prayer. We also prayed with you that God and His Blessed Mother will grant your request." All I said was a meek "Thank you" with tears still rolling down my cheeks.

When I went back to see my son, he opened his eyes and talked for the first time, "Dad!" He asked me to lift his bed up so he could sit. After a little while, upon doctor’s advice, he came down from his bed and tried to walk a few steps. All of these miracles happened on Good Friday!

The following morning, on Holy Saturday, I was so surprised to see him walking with my wife along the corridor. I was extremely happy when the doctor told us that after he did a thorough checkup on Eric, he signed the release papers for my son to go home!

On Easter Sunday morning, all of us went to church. We all sat in the front row as if it was intentionally reserved for us. The pastor was so surprised to see Eric with us. The school principal and Eric’s teachers who visited him at the hospital could not also believe what they saw. The pastor whose sermon was about resurrection said: "What we witnessed today on Eric Santos is another sign of resurrection and the power of prayers."

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