Think of a crowd the size of a sold-out rock concert at Oklahoma City's Ford Center, plus a few thousand more. Or, think of the population of a city like Ardmore or Ponca City.
That's how many children died in Oklahoma in the last 30 years — more than 24,000. The total includes everything — deaths from illness, natural causes, accident, suicide, neglect, abuse, murder and unknown reasons. “I don't think you overcome something like this,” said one mother, Ella Akeen, whose baby daughter was shaken to death in 2007 in El Reno while she was away. State officials say there are no quick solutions, particularly for problems like child abuse, but there are things anyone can do. “People don't realize that something as simple as taking their used toys some place can make a big difference. Or donating their clothes or helping the infant crisis center with formula is helping prevent child abuse. It's all connected,” said Annette Wisk Jacobi, chief of family support and prevention service at the state Health Department. “Things like when you're in the grocery store and you see a parent at their wits' end ... You want to give them the evil eye. ... It's so much better to go over and say, ‘Gosh, I remember what it was like to have a 2-year-old. Can I help you for a second while you grab that off the shelf?'” In an effort to find trends, The Oklahoman checked records on hundreds of deaths of victims who will never have an 18th birthday. Reporters talked to relatives and state officials. Reporters also went over state and national reports. The records reveal all those things your mother warned you about when you were young. Children die crossing the street; they die playing with guns or with matches; they die the most from car accidents. They die from illness. They wander away from parents and drown in pools, ponds or bathtubs. Some get locked — or left behind — in cars and succumb to the heat. Once, a child strangled on holiday decorations. As teenagers, they die from drinking too much, drug overdoses and suicides. One died from car fumes after apparently passing out on the front seat.