Saturday, 2:15 PM
Two men praised after catching falling baby in Lawrence
By Brian R. Ballou, Globe Staff
LAWRENCE - It might have ended so differently, if Robert Lemire had not decided on pizza for dinner or if Alex Day had not come to the apartment on Haverhill Street for Bible study.
A miraculous reception: Robert Lemire talks about catching the falling infant.
Neither might have seen the heart-stopping sight of a girl in a diaper and T-shirt dangling from an apartment window three stories above the ground, and they might not have been waiting to catch her when she finally fell.
Eighteen-month-old Caliah Clark survived a 30-foot plummet Sunday night and probably owes her life to the two men who ran to the spot below the window and caught her, one by the legs, another above the waist, and brought her, unhurt, back to her father in the apartment upstairs.
"When they saved my daughter's life, they saved my own life because if she would have been hurt, I don't know what I'd do," said the father, 28-year-old Randall Clark. "For them to be there to catch my daughter, it's unbelievable. Accidents do happen in a split second."
Clark said he was home alone with his four children and putting his youngest, a 2-month-old, to bed when he heard his older children in another room. He believes the eldest two, ages 3 and 4, wrestled open a window that he normally keeps latched but that "for some reason comes unlocked" and were throwing toys out of it.
Outside, Lemire, a 45-year-old remodeling contractor, was heading to Mano's Pizza across the street, preoccupied with his daughter's softball tryouts earlier in the day. His cellphone rang, and he paced the sidewalk outside the shop while he talked, when something caught his eye: a child's toy falling from an upper window of a large apartment house. A few minutes later, another toy flew out and bounced off the paved walkway below. Then, he heard a cry and looked up.
Shocked at what he saw - a small girl dangling from the window and two children inside desperately clutching her arms - Lemire bolted across the street, dodging a car. His heart pounding, Lemire ran to the front door, yelling "Hello! Hello!" and "There's a baby out the window!" He ran up a flight of stairs to the second floor, then turned and ran back outside.
Day, a 23-year-old trucking manager, heard the yelling while sitting in a first-floor apartment with his wife and about a dozen Sunday Bible study regulars. He jumped to his feet and ran out. "I thought maybe there was a fire," he said. But as soon as he turned the corner, he saw Lemire standing below the window, looking up. He followed the man's gaze to the girl dangling above. She was slipping.
As he rushed to Lemire's side, Lemire spoke: "Here she comes."
The toddler fell with her body tilted toward the ground. "He pretty much got the top and I got the diaper end, or the bottom half, or whatever you call it," said Lemire.
"She looked at me and had a weird look on her face as if to say, 'Wow, all of a sudden I'm down here,' " Day said.
He carried the toddler back upstairs to her home. On the stairs, he said, the baby actually started chuckling.
The incident is being investigated by Lawrence police and the city's Inspectional Services Department. No charges have been filed against the father. Lawrence Police Chief John Romero said, "right now, we're just looking at the circumstances as to how the child was left unattended." Calls to Inspectional Services were not returned yesterday.
"I think that child is alive today because of their quick actions," Romero said yesterday of Day and Lemire. "They're both heroes."
A spokeswoman with the state Department of Children and Families said the incident was the first time the department has had contact with the Clark family. Other residents of the building described Randall Clark and his wife, Rachael, as responsible parents.
"He's a very good father who loves his children," said Adam Lind, 24, who lives on the second floor. "Both he and his wife are hard workers. They're both very upset about what happened."
Day said he spoke with Clark briefly yesterday, and that Clark thanked him again for saving his daughter.
"People who have children know that it's impossible to keep your eye on them all the time," Lemire said, "and all it takes is a second."
Martin Finucane of the Globe staff and correspondent Michele Richinick contributed to this report.