Breaking News
More () »

Maine toddler's amazing story of recovery after being in his mother's arms when she stepped in front of truck

The McGovern-Bickford family is opening up about their lives in the past year since losing Heidi and how they're keeping her memory alive while little Enoch thrives

LEE, Maine — "It's such a shock going through something like that," said Daniel McGovern, nearly a year after his wife took her own life by suicide and seriously injured their young son. "You don't know what to think."

On October 4, 2018, around 4:30 p.m. Heidi McGovern, 26, took her 2-year-old son Enoch from their home in Lee, leaving behind her infant son, Ethan, and suicide notes addressed to her family.

She pulled her car over on the side of I-95 North in Lincoln and took Enoch out of his car seat and holding him in her arms, she stepped in front of a tanker truck.

RELATED: Police call I-95 tanker crash involving mother, toddler a suicide

Heidi was killed on impact but Enoch was thrown out of her arms and away from the truck, landing in the passing lane of the highway. 

The first three people to come to his aid were a nurse, an ambulance, and an off-duty EMT, who were all just passing by.

"They were all there without being called," said Heidi's father, Mitch Bickford. "That's pretty amazing."

"It was God that brought them all there, you know," said Heidi's mother, Brenda Bickford. "It didn't just happen."

Credit: NCM
Photo of Heidi McGovern.

It's been exactly one year since this crash that claimed Heidi's life and miraculously saved Enoch's.

"No, it doesn't seem like a year," said Brenda. "Seems like a month ago that this all happened."

For Heidi's husband, Daniel, it feels like a lot more time has passed.

"So much has happened and so much is going on," said Daniel. "It seems like it's been more like 10 years."

The family was still in shock five days after the crash though, while sitting at the hospital speaking with NEWS CENTER Maine's Samantha Sugerman.

"I cannot understand this tragedy," said Daniel on October 9, 2018. "Why, or how, it's just something I can't wrap my mind around."

RELATED: 'I cannot understand this tragedy': Husband of Heidi McGovern on losing wife, injuring son

"Took a long time for all that to sink in," said Daniel, sitting in "Heidi's Garden" outside of her family's Lee Baptist Church for an interview shortly before the one-year anniversary. There are "still some days where it's hard to imagine that all that really happened."

One year later, old wounds are still raw.

"I'm a crier, yup, still cry," said Mitch. "I'm not afraid to talk about it but it hurts."

"Every day I find myself literally shaking my head like I'm trying to shake off the reality of it like, it didn't, this really didn't happen, you know, and then come back to reality that it did," added Brenda.

The Public's Response

When the family first spoke out a year ago, no one had any idea how telling their story, Heidi's story, and Enoch's story, would touch the lives of nearly every Mainer, and people from all across the country and the world.

"I never expected anything good after this happened," said Daniel. "I expected nothing but negativity but it's been the exact opposite."

RELATED: Heartbroken by photos, Maine woman organizes online fundraiser for Enoch McGovern

Hundreds of gifts and letters were sent to Enoch and the family during his month in the hospital, not to mention the thousands of Facebook reactions, shares, and messages to the family via social media. 

"We got messages of anger at first like, 'how could someone do [that,]' and we could totally empathize and understand that people that didn't know the situation would think that," said Brenda. "If I had seen this on the news I would have said, 'how could that happen?'"

Credit: NCM

Folks at home followed Enoch's recovery until he was discharged from the hospital and went home.

RELATED: 2-year-old boy hit by tanker truck goes home from hospital

"Amazing, the people that were so kind and did so much," said Mitch. "Just totally amazing."

RELATED: Maine's top stories of 2018

"I think the story with Enoch as well, in the hospital and all that, and watching his recovery, maybe a lot of people were looking for some hope there too and some help as to how they could go through what they're going through as well," said Daniel.

Enoch's Recovery

Folks at home followed Enoch's recovery from the beginning, in the intensive care unit at Eastern Maine Medical Center, now Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center.

He got to go home to Lee about a month after the crash, which Daniel called "a miracle."

By Thanksgiving, his body cast was off, and he started walking again just two weeks later.

"He actually learned how to walk with that cast on," said Daniel through laughter. "He would stand up and scoot around with his bike and cast on."

RELATED: Drive-by, fundraiser planned for Enoch McGovern in Bangor

RELATED: 'My heart was telling me I had to do something': Organizer of convoy for Enoch McGovern

Mainers traveled far distances to be a part of Enoch's "Convoy for a Cause" the weekend after he was discharged from the hospital. 

"It's just because of this little boy," said one of the organizers of the event.

Enoch, who loves buses, watched the convoy go by from inside Daniel's car, pointing and waving and exclaiming, "big bus!"

RELATED: ‘It's just because of this little boy’: Hundreds ‘Convoy for a Cause’ for Enoch McGovern

RELATED: Hundreds turn out for Enoch's 'Convoy for a Cause'

Credit: NCM
Enoch looking and waving at the trucks in the Convoy for a Cause. (October 27, 2018)

"The drastic measures that she took with Enoch and whatnot, it really hit a lot of people hard," said Daniel, on the outpouring of support for Enoch and his family. "It was a shock to a lot of people. A shock, of course."

Just as shocking is how this little boy, now three-years-old, won't have any lasting physical effects from the trauma he endured.

RELATED: He almost didn't live another day. Now, he's celebrating his 3rd birthday.

"Except for a couple of scars here and there you'd never know anything happened," said Daniel through laughter. "He's just a normal little kid, I guess. It's amazing."

It's the scars that aren't visible to the human eye that he'll have to carry with him every day.

"He hasn't asked any questions," added Daniel. "It hasn't come of that. I don't know if that's something the Lord has just kind of given him to help him through his little life right now."

Heidi's Pregnancy

"It was just a short time before [the crash] that we found out she was expecting," said Daniel.

Five days after the crash, at the time of the family's first interview, no one except the family knew Heidi had been pregnant at the time of her death.

This fact first surfaced when the family posted her obituary.

"She loved being pregnant," said Brenda. "That's kind of like a mystery to us. We don't understand."

"She had had some struggles earlier that summer," said Daniel. "Some Postpartum depression with [Ethan.]"

"I don't even know if she was feeling life yet," added Brenda. "Maybe she thought if she waited much longer then she would've felt life and, I don't know. We don't know. Maybe we'll never know."

Daniel said Heidi also suffered a miscarriage in between giving birth to Enoch and Ethan.

"I like to think of it as I've got two boys here; she's got a couple of kids in Heaven with her," said Daniel, smiling. "I like to think of it that way. Maybe she has a couple of girls up there. I don't know. She always wanted a girl."

Heidi's Mental Health

"It's a very difficult thing whenever someone takes their own life, especially someone very close to you [and] someone that you love," said Daniel. There's "a lot of guilt involved, a lot of questions, a lot of thinking, 'I could have done this better, could've done that better, would've done something different.' Definitely go through a lot of that."

Mitch, Brenda, and Daniel are all in agreement that Heidi "wasn't thinking right" at the time of her death.

"It was a terrible thing [that she did,] but the way that it all happened with Enoch and whatnot, it actually kind of helped me to understand that there was something wrong with the way she was thinking," added Daniel.

Heidi's suicide note detailed why she made the decision to bring Enoch with her the night of October 4, and her decision to leave Ethan behind.

"Enoch just has a lot of his mother in him," said Daniel.

It was Heidi's fear that Enoch would grow up to have the same depression, anxiety, and fears that Heidi battled herself, given their similarities.

"There's connections with depression like we've never had before," said Brenda.

"When someone comes to that point, they've convinced themselves of things that just are not true," said Daniel. "Whatever had brought her to that point, she wasn't thinking quite right. It wasn't who she was. It wasn't who she grew up as. Don't let that final decision that she made to define the rest of her life."

"This is a case too that I would say kind of zeroes in on mental health because it wasn't drugs, it wasn't alcohol, it wasn't [an] abusive relationship," said Mitch.

It's the family's faith that keeps them grounded through the lingering questions that still remain.

"Heidi's exact steps, the way she timed it to step in front of the truck in such a way," said Brenda. "She wasn't supposed to do that. It wasn't, you know, that was the wrong choice, but God allowed her to do it and timed those steps in such a way that the impact would throw Enoch into safety." 

"It's something that God allowed," said Daniel. "Certainly God would've preferred her to not make that decision but God allowed it and that's helpful too, to understand that the Lord's in control of all this."

The family is hopeful that sharing her story will have an impact on others and change the stigma surrounding Christians suffering from depression.

"Even though Heidi had some struggles that year prior to [the crash,] mental health, depression and whatnot, it wasn't something that I thought about," said Daniel. "Everything that happened really opened my eyes to how big of an issue that is and hopefully someday we can help others a little bit better."

"We don't want Heidi's wrong decision, the tragedy, to be in vain," said Brenda.

Remembering Heidi

"Every time you walk in the house, you expect Heidi to greet you," said Mitch.

The family is keeping Heidi's memory alive in various ways, from looking at pictures and videos, to the creation of "Heidi's Garden" outside of the church she grew up in.

"I like to go visit places that were special to us and relive the memories a little bit," said Daniel. "Remember her, but remember what we had, and it's helpful to remember what was lost as well. Life's definitely different now but I'm able to look back now and just thank God that he gave me her for a few years and we had a few really good years together. I'm grateful for that."

Another major way she is being remembered a year after her death is through her sons, Enoch and Ethan.

"It's fun to watch them grow up," said Daniel. "Brings back a lot of memories too watching them grow up. I mean, there are a lot of challenging parts to raising them by myself. A lot of times I don't know if I'm doing something wrong or not because there's no one there to watch me raise them! They give me a lot to think about and keep me busy, that's for sure."

Daniel admitted that it took awhile, months even, before he wanted to revisit the memories and keep Heidi's memory alive, given what she did.

"It was so painful to think about," said Daniel. "Still some days it's hard to imagine that all that really happened. I tried to leave pictures up on the walls of her but I couldn't do it. I had to take them down. Every time you look at them, you just break down and start crying. It was just hard. Really difficult. Now we look at pictures, I like to, and as the boys get older we'll show them pictures, of course. Now I want to remember the memories but it was very hard."

Looking at those pictures and videos, even very soon after the crash, Enoch didn't seem to have any memory of Heidi at all.

"He wouldn't seem to recognize her," said Daniel.

No memory of his mother means in his mind, she gets a clean slate.

"I do look forward to the day, as they get older and understand more things, where I can tell them about their mother," said Daniel.

Moving on with life

"We've just had to learn to heal together through a tragedy that not too many people have to experience, so that's brought us closer, I believe," said Brenda.

Even though a year has passed and the family is moving on, making new memories, the tragic loss of Heidi and "miracle" that saved Enoch has not been lost on them.

"The Bible says Enoch means 'he walked with God,'" said Brenda. "So, he walked with God and he's walking now."

Just as amazing, the family has engaged, and built a relationship with the driver of the tanker truck involved in the crash.

"He's an amazing man," said Brenda, shaking her head. "What he went through."

"He helps us," added Mitch. "He's a kind, kind man."

"I'm glad I get to go through raising these boys as well," said Daniel. "That's an eye opening experience. Men don't realize what their wives and mothers go through!"

The biggest change now facing the family is Daniel's decision to raise his boys in Alaska.

"Everything about being here for me is centered around Heidi," said Daniel, just days before he, Enoch, and Ethan moved across the country. "Hopefully [the move] will help to have less of a reminder every day of everything that we've been through."

For Brenda and Mitch though, the boys' move is like losing a part of Heidi all over again.

"It's like losing more of Heidi," said Mitch.

"Watching them, like [Mitch] said, it's bits of Heidi that are going away," said Brenda. "The only bit of Heidi we have left."

The family, deeply rooted in their church, again turn to their faith to guide them into the future.

"Heidi's very much alive right now," said Brenda. "We're going to see her again someday."