An 11-year-old boy who was seriously injured last week in a deadly school bus crash in New Jersey smiled for the first time in days when he received a surprise gift from the New York Rangers.
The pro hockey team sent Brendan O’Callaghan a hockey stick signed by his favorite player, goalie Henrik Lundqvist, as well as a card from the team, NorthJersey.com reported.
Brendan, a fifth-grader, does not remember Thursday’s crash, which occurred when his class was on a field trip to Waterloo Village. The accident left his teacher, Jennifer Kennedy, and one of his classmates, 10-year-old Miranda Vargas, dead.
“His first words to me were, ‘Daddy, am I going to die?’” his father, Arnie O’Callaghan, said Sunday. “I said, ‘No, your friends are here, you’re not going to die.’”
According to O’Callaghan, Brendan remains hospitalized at Morristown Medical Center with a fractured temple bone, broken collarbone, punctured lung and a bruised orbital bone.
“He asks me how to escape from this dream. He grabs my ear, touches my face and asks if this is real,” O’Callghan said. “He feels like he’s in a bad dream. My son has no recollection — he asks if he missed the trip to Waterloo Village.”
O’Callaghan, a police officer, said that Brendan developed a bond with his teacher following the death of her dog at the beginning of the school year.
“We had just got a dog, and he asked her if he could send pictures to her. She just started crying,” he said.
O’Callaghan said that he was driving in the area on Thursday when he received a call from a friend who told him that a Paramus school bus had been involved in an accident, but his wife, Jacklyn, did not know if Brendan was involved.
“I can hear my wife hysterical in the background,” he said.
Upon seeing a police cruiser with its emergency lights on, O’Callaghan turned on his hazard lights and followed the car to Route 287, where other vehicles led him to Morristown Medical Center.
“I was helpless at that point. I was pacing back and forth and started seeing some familiar faces of other officers who had kids at the school, other parents. I started panicking,” he said.
Finally, a law enforcement friend informed him that Brendan had survived. Hospital staff then asked O’Callaghan if his wife was on her way. “I asked if they had my son. They said they still don’t know.”
Soon thereafter, Brendan was identified and O’Callaghan was taken to see him. Upon seeing his father, Brendan touched his face to make sure he was not dreaming.
Receiving the gift from the Rangers was a bright spot in Brendan’s recovery. A card sent by the team read, “You’re in our thoughts and our prayers. Best wishes, the New York Rangers.”
“It was the look on (my) son’s face when he received it, it enlightened everyone,” O’Callaghan said. “It was a light of hope.”