Nearly four years after their 3-year-old son accidentally shot himself with his father's gun, Mark and Melissa Easter are sharing their devastating story to emphasize that this tragedy could happen to anyone. In March 2013 Michael Easter was home with his mom and two older sisters — and alone for less than three minutes — when Melissa heard the gunshot that would change their lives forever, causing them to relieve the mistakes they made in regards to gun safety every single day.
Although Mark, a Deputy and 17-year veteran of the Jackson County Sheriff's department, was just two minutes from the family's home at the time of the accident, his loaded gun was at the house, sitting atop a tall dresser that Michael climbed up. However, Melissa blames herself for her son's death. "It's my fault my son died," she told WLNS. "No one else but mine. I was the parent on duty and I failed my son."
After hearing the gunshot, Melissa ran into her bedroom. "I actually saw him fall and I tried to do everything I could. I remember thinking . . . 'I've got to be a mom,' and I slammed the door shut and the girls were trying to get in and I'm like, 'No – call your Dad – get my cell phone.'" Mark recalls getting the call to come home, turning the car around, and seeing his daughter coming off the porch, afraid her dad was going to kill himself as a result of the accident.
"I lost my son . . . there's no worse punishment," Mark said. "There isn't a day that goes go by, there's isn't an hour that goes by, that I don't think about him. And instead of spending birthdays at at a Chuck E. Cheese or friend's house or having parties, we'll be going to the cemetery tomorrow. That's how we celebrate our son's birthday. For a three-minute mistake that cost us everything."
Both of Michael's parents are still grieving, deeply heartbroken and wishing they could go back in time to fix their mistakes. Days after the accident, Mark went to purchase a gun safe to prevent anything like this from ever happening again. "When I went to pay for it, I knew that with the $100 it cost me for the safe I could have prevented my son from dying," Mark said. "And that will haunt me."
Michael's parents want others to know that sometimes tragedy can happen inside the home, and it can happen within minutes, completely shattering your entire world. "It's been almost four years and it hasn't gotten any easier," Melissa said. "It was something so simple that could have saved his life. It was just so quick, and now I get to live with that the rest of my life. It hurts."