On the 90th anniversary of the tragedy depicted in Tree of Lives

from TREE OF LIVES, “Second Base,” page 302


   Billy McGowan, Freddie Lundino and Tommy Wilson, the three outfielders, were anxious for noon, when the overhead sun would make it easier to see any high fly balls that made it into their territory. This was the first game of the summer, the one that would decide who would play Milford High.
   “Move back you guys — it’s Albert Beck next. He can really whack the ball” warned McGowan, the oldest and tallest of the three outfielders.
   Tommy moved farther out, all the way to the little hill at the base of the cliff, just in case. The stone cliff face acted as an amplifying echo chamber when a good hit was made, so he was listening for the cue. Instead he felt a tremor and a thud behind him, followed by some pebbly sounds, but Albert hadn’t swung at the ball as far as Tommy could tell. Immediately fearful a rock had fallen from the sandstone cliffs behind him, Tommy moved forward a few steps and checked over his shoulder. Freddie felt and heard something, too, and looked over in Tommy’s direction.
   There, just a few feet behind Tommy, the rumpled body of a four-year-old boy was rolling down the slope and then stopped, limp as a broken doll. His blonde hair blood soaked in red, his head and right arm twisted at a cruel angle.
“Oh my God! Look! It’s a baby! A baby fell off the cliff!”
New Haven Register,
Sunday, June 22, 1930


June 21, 2020. Today is the 90th anniversary of the Spang tragedy which I wrote about in my novel, Tree of Lives.

I have a yahrzheit candle all ready. I’m supposed to wait until sunset to light it. The exact moment that the event actually happened was around noon, which is right now as I write this. I want my husband to say the prayer with me, but it’s a pretty day and he’s having out fun, playing tennis.

That noon 90 years ago, in New Haven, Connecticut, some boys were playing baseball. It was the first day of summer. School was out, the wet spring was finally over and it was also a beautiful day… just like this one.


Elizabeth Garden is an artist who uses her imagination to overcome major life obstacles including trauma and child abuse.