Sherri Miller didn’t end up grieving for a murdered baby this Christmas. Instead she made room for loads of presents brought by people who shared her joy that little Tramire pulled through.
Just two months ago Miller rushed to the hospital where doctors saved her son Tramire’s life. A bullet from a drive-by gunman struck Tramire, then 16 months old, in the stomach at 2:35 in the afternoon as he sat on the family’s front porch at Dwight and Kensington streets. The shooting sparked citywide outrage and grief.
Tramire’s story quickly completed its McLuhanesque moment. Fiscal cliffs and other shootings assumed their place in the public’s consciousness. Reporters stopped peering in Sherri Miller’s window to see if the family was home.
The school massacre in Newtown last week brought back the horror to Miller, who’s 28 years old and has three small children. “By the grace of God, my son is still here,” she said Sunday. “Just before Christmas, so many families lost their kids. I’m so grateful I can sit here with my kids.”
This weekend, she discovered how many people shared her gratefulness. Two months later, many people were still thinking about the tragedy—and caring about the family.
The neighborhood’s top cop, Sgt. Rob Criscuolo (at right in photo), cared. On Friday he and fellow cop Arpad Tolnay carted over 100 presents to the daycare center across the street from the Millers’ apartment, where Tramire’s 3-year-old sister Timmiya attends preschool. The cops had gotten to know the center and its operator, DeLisa Tolson, since the tragic shooting that terrified all the kids. Criscuolo’s girlfriend, Carla Maravalle, and a friend decided to get multiple gifts for each of the center’s 28 children for Christmas. They and their 5-year-old children accompanied the officers to the center Friday along with a meal of chicken tenders, sharing songs and stories along with the food and presents. “It was awesome,” proclaimed Tolson, who said the kids, who used to fear cops, have come to trust them over the past two months.
Jillian Knox, the police department’s victim services officer, remembered, too. On Saturday, Knox, who had shepherded the Miller family through the days following the shooting through the arrest of the alleged shooter, returned to the apartment with presents for the family.
Then, on Sunday, a dozen “elves” showed up at the Millers’ door. Led by Officer Nancy Jordan, a 13-year veteran of the force who used to patrol Kensington Street before shifting to Whalley Avenue, the group came from West Haven’s Faith Baptist Church. The church “Sleigh Ministry” collected 449 toys to distribute to 242 kids in the area this Christmas. Jordan brought the caravan of three vehicles to the Millers’ house to deliver a box brimming with 14 presents wrapped in Snoopy, snowman, and St. Nick paper.
The presents were for Tramire, who’s now 18 months old; Timmiya; and their brother Laruan, who’s 9.
The Miller family waited on the same porch where Tramire had been shot as the caravan arrived.
Jordan’s husband Keith grabbed the overflowing box of toys.
The dozen elves greeted the Miller family on the porch. (Father Tim Miller wasn’t at home.) First came hugs. Then Keith Jordan went inside to place the box by the Christmas tree in the Millers’ living room.
“It feels like a basketball,” Laruan said, picking up a box addressed to him, “with a pump in the side.”
The apartment had so many presents now that Sherri had to fill the closet with some of them. They couldn’t all fit under the tree.
“They didn’t forget,” she said of the police and other neighbors who filled her house with toys. “These kids are going to have them a great Christmas.”
After the elves departed with an invitation to attend their church services, Sherri let the children open one early present each. Tramire paraded around with a Hess toy truck and race car. Timmiya held up her Tinker Bell puzzle for everyone to see. And Laruan was pleased to have guessed right: He had a new Starter basketball. With a pump to keep it bouncing.