- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 11, 2004

LIVERMORE, Calif. (AP) — The first call to 911 was a shock: A mother of eight had died at home, her heart suddenly giving out. Two weeks later, another call from the same quiet street — the father of the same family had collapsed.

In just two weeks, the eight children of the Scott-Cadigan family, ages 12 to 22, had lost both parents. Seven months later, the shock lingers, though the family is still together, sibling looking out for sibling.

“How do you go on after something like this has happened to you? I honestly don’t know how all of us are doing it, but we are,” said Janice Scott, 21.

“We have each other’s back,” said Jennifer, 22.

Others, too, are pulling for the family.

In the past year, a grocer has donated food and volunteers have worked on fixing up the family’s modest home. A trust fund has been created to help pay monthly bills, with a couple of out-of-town relatives overseeing major withdrawals.

“It’s amazing what people have been doing,” said Sherri Plamondon, the 911 dispatcher who took the call when Diane Scott-Cadigan died suddenly of a heart condition last June.

Miss Plamondon, who lost her own father when she was 21, was already working on getting help for the family when the second call came in two weeks later. Diane’s husband, Mark, had died of undiagnosed heart disease, aggravated by the stress of his wife’s death. Both parents were 43 years old.

Fourteen-year-old Dolly Scott-Cadigan made both 911 calls.

“It’s like a nightmare,” Dolly said. “You couldn’t even make a movie out of it because it’s so horrible.”

Within days, Janice and Jennifer, both of whom had moved away from home before their parents died, moved back into the family house in Livermore, 50 miles east of San Francisco.

After Mark’s funeral, they all sat down and talked.

Did they ever consider splitting up?

“No,” said Jennifer.

Miss Plamondon and colleagues at the fire and police departments helped coordinate support that has ranged from free amusement park tickets to house landscaping to a new minivan.

But there are years yet to navigate. Three of the children — Dolly, Theresa, 12, and Jackie, 16 — are still in school; the other five work at various jobs. Jennifer is a preschool teacher; Janice, a pharmacy clerk.

“My one and only job is older sister,” she says. “The girls are more than welcome to tell me anything they want in the confidence they would tell any of their sisters. I’m not their mom and I don’t want to be their mom. They have a mom.”

Old routines have reasserted themselves, with older siblings taking care of the younger children and younger siblings pitching in as much as can be expected.

The eight children are a blended family, Jennifer, Janice, Daniel, 19; Rachael, 18; Jackie and Dolly are Diane’s children from a previous marriage, Kelli-Ann, 19, is Mark’s daughter from a previous marriage, and Theresa is Mark and Diane’s child born after they were married in 1990.

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