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Remembering a chance meeting with Officer Sean Collier

An alumnus recalls how Officer Collier helped save his newborn
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Andrés Barriga, MBA ’13, with his wife, Anita Valdes and their daughter, Sofia
Andrés Barriga, MBA ’13, with his wife, Anita Valdes and their daughter, Sofia

Winter storm Nemo was a notable event in the tempestuous winter of 2013. But for Andrés Barriga MBA ’13 and his wife, Anita, that day, February 8, was unforgettable.

The couple had just returned from the hospital with their three-day-old baby, Sofia. Nemo had been forecast for days in advance, and Anita and the baby were released a day early so they would not be stranded at the hospital.

The new family was at home settling into their Eastgate apartment, with Anita’s parents visiting, when suddenly the new mom noticed her baby seemed faint and possibly not even breathing. They immediately remembered there was a pediatrician who was visiting a friend of theirs in the building, and Barriga’s mother-in-law ran to get him while Barriga called 911.

In less than two minutes, MIT Police Officer Sean Collier was the first responder at the scene.

“He ran into the bedroom where my daughter was and he cleared the way to bring the paramedics in,” Barriga remembers. “He brought us a sense of relief and peace, and then the pediatrician arrived, and then the paramedics arrived.”

A few minutes later, in the middle of the pounding blizzard, they left by ambulance for Massachusetts General Hospital. Although it was just a short distance away, the snow-laden streets made for a harrowing drive.

Little Sofia had been dehydrated and most likely had some reflux that may have impeded her breathing, Barriga said. The paramedics stabilized her in the ambulance and she then spent two days in the hospital until her fluid levels were back up. She made a full recovery.

“She is totally fine, thank God … and the people who helped us,” Barriga says.

The storm subsided and the family returned to their life, settling in with a newborn. A few days later, Barriga received an email that “turned my world upside down.”

My name is Sean Collier. I was the first responding police officer to your apartment when your child (I believe her name was Sophia, although I’m not positive in all the chaos) was having difficulty breathing ... I wanted to follow-up and find out how Sophia was doing?
Sean Collier

Barriga says he was astonished and humbled that Collier had sought him out.

“Who does that? He was just doing his job, right? It should have been us who proactively contacted him to say ‘thanks,’” Barriga says. “But Officer Collier had such a level of engagement with his job and the community.”

Barriga responded and let him know how grateful they were to him and the other emergency personnel on the scene that day. The chance meeting and correspondence with a young police officer who was just starting his career will always be with Barriga.

“To me, it’s a glimmer of hope," Barriga says, "to remember that we crossed paths with someone as outstanding as him and others who serve anonymously with great generosity, duty, and commitment."

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