An innocent question from their surviving 5-year-old son sent Dina and Thomas Silvera spiraling into a dark place once again.
“Sebastian asked us how we could go see his baby brother in heaven,” the parents recalled Friday. “‘Can we ride a rocket ship to reach to him?’ he asked. And our hearts broke all over again.”
The devastated mom and dad were still waiting for answers in the death one week earlier of their 3-year-old Elijah, killed after an allergic reaction to a grilled cheese sandwich in a Harlem daycare.
The adorable, brown-eyed boy died Nov. 3 after staff at the Seventh Avenue Center for Family Services served him the fatal food despite his allergy to dairy products.
The parents charged the facility’s workers were made aware of his dietary restrictions.
“Every day since Elijah has left us has been so painful,” the parents wrote in a Friday statement. “We come home to an apartment that has an eerie kind of emptiness. It is filled with his toys, his pictures on our walls.”
Their message appeared on a GoFundMe page where more than 1,200 people had donated $48,372 by Friday afternoon. The family plans to hold a funeral next week for Elijah in Brooklyn.
A family spokesman declined to say Friday if a lawsuit was in the works, although the Silveras have hired a lawyer.
The combination Pre-K and daycare operation, shuttered on Wednesday, remained closed as a city Health Department investigation into the sudden and tragic death continued.
The business was shut down for failure to follow its written safety plan and failure to adequately supervise a child, authorities said.
The unconscious Elijah was rushed to the pediatric emergency room at Harlem Hospital, where a desperate effort to save his life failed.
Thomas Silvera recalled arriving at the facility, only to watch his heartbroken wife collapse as he approached her.
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Elijah was nicknamed “Choo Choo” by his dad, a testimony to the child’s full-speed-ahead approach to life. He was best friends with his older sibling Sebastian.
“He was just bright and energetic,” said Ruben Porras, a cousin of the boy’s dad. “He and his brother were partners in crime — always, always, always together.
“It really breaks my heart seeing Sebastian now and thinking about that.”
Dina and Thomas sent a special thank you to the hundreds of strangers who shared their love and money with the family.
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“We are moved to tears to know that we are not alone, both in our heartbreak and in our concern for safety around allergies in schools,” the couple wrote.
The dad, in a “Good Morning America” appearance Friday, said he hoped something good might come of his boy’s death.
“I’m (angry) that this had to happen to my son, but the next thing I don’t want is it to happen to somebody else’s son or daughter,” he said.
Neighbors of the family and parents of Elijah’s classmates were still shocked by the boy’s death — and found few answers forthcoming.
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Officials explained little Thursday at a news conference six days after the death, declining to even confirm whether the daycare was equipped with a potentially life-saving device like an EpiPen.
Porras, 36, was still struggling with the idea that the child was gone forever.
“There are kids that you see, and they’ve got a bright light in their eyes and you know that everything about them is joy,” Porras said. “The way they take in the world is joy — that was Elijah.”
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ESHA RAY, LARRY McSHANE