Baby Zara Was Murdered and I Heard Her Cries from the Bottom of the Raritan River

Baby Zara cried out from the bottom of the Raritan River so adults could learn what she lived.

"If a child lives with acceptance and friendship, he learns to find love in the world."

Quote by Dorothy Law Nolte

It's been three years since the tragic death of New Jersey's Little Baby Zara.  I still love her.

While commuting from Point Pleasant to my office in Jersey City on February 18th, 2010 there was no option except to get sick to my stomach as I approached the Alfred E. Driscoll Bridge. Unfortunately, the old Garden State Parkway toll booth offices in Sayreville were re-opened for business that day and they had to remain open until April 24th.

The brick building was surrounded by twenty black detective cars with tinted windows and a large NJ State Police Mobile Crime Unit Lab. A blinking alert sign asking the public to call if we had any information was illuminated overhead.  It was ominous.

The grim task in front of the selfless heroes inside that facility was to plan out the strategy to locate the tiny lifeless body of a three-month old baby girl who suffered murder-by-drowning in the frigid waters of the Raritan River at the hands of her father.

Who could believe that he stuffed this poor innocent baby in a sleeping bag and tossed her over the railing like trash on February 16th?

Police say 21-year-old Galloway Township resident who was sentenced to life in prison in 2012, threw his daughter Zara Malani-Lin Abdur-Raheem off that bridge after the attempted murder of the child's maternal grandmother whom police say he assaulted in East Orange during the kidnapping.  This brave grandmother was caring for her precious granddaughter.

At the time of the abduction, the baby's mother was in a courtroom in Newark, NJ applying for a restraining order against Mr. Abdur-Raheem.

For two months every time my car scaled this bridge, I silently prayed the mighty waters would give Zara up and sweep her home to her mother's arms.  Two months later, God answered that prayer.

Over the last 30 years, I've embraced the broken bodies and injured spirits of women and children who have survived the scourge of brutal domestic abuse and violence.  I know - from personal experience - that it is beyond stressful and beyond all civilized experiences to have to watch people you love endure these kinds of horrific circumstances.

The painful long-term consequences that often play-out all the days these victims live is enough to numb your heart. 

It takes remarkable courage and resolve to place yourself square-in-the-middle of such danger during any attempt to ensure the survival of helpless children who cannot save themselves from abuse and harm in these corridors-of-darkness. 

Like Baby Zara's grandmother, my own mother lived the tenets of this kind of courage dedicated to grandchildren.  I revere strong adults in families who step up to protect kids when God calls on them to do so because these efforts in His name make a difference every single day.

The grandmother mantra is simple, "If children live with security, they learn to have faith" in themselves and in those around them - which gives each child an unyielding strength, a confidence and a shot at happiness that has no bounds.  

Baby Zara's death was a haunting reminder that too many enchanting children are left dangling and frightened from all kinds of dangerous bridges by the same people who gave them life.   

When adults in emotional high-drama, high-stake (or low-stake) situations fail to operate, act, or comport themselves in a manner that puts the best interest of their children at the forefront of their thinking, the children lose.  There are no winners.

For the record, these abhorrent situations laced with rage and revenge don't do anything healthy for anyone.  Everyone with a view experiences mountains of sorrow that can literally eat their insides out. 

Do you really think Mr. Shamsid-Din Abdur-Raheem cared about what Baby Zara's mother, grandmother and other relatives would experience for the rest of their lives after he killed her? 

Unfortunately - people who can harm their own kids aren't capable of caring about the damage their actions do to others.

The chances of kids being emotionally injured by the scars inflicted by parental behavior during these difficult and dreadful situations go up exponentially when hatred, disdain and/or a lack of maturity rules everyday, every encounter and every special occasion. 

How come so many people "use their own children" for personal gain, to one-up this or that? 

Why do moms and dads use kids to get back at partners and/or other adults involved in these loops of madness that encompass everything from divorce, busted dreams, infidelities, death, financial failures, family court decisions, substance abuse, disappointments, unemployment, abuse and beyond? 

The next chapter has to come, so why doesn't everyone just close the last chapter sooner if doing so would mean granddaughters like Baby Zara could actually live to celebrate their third birthdays?

Children see everything through the eyes of their parents, so why doesn't everyone wake up and grow up especially since it's no secret that "Children Learn What They Live?"

Kids sometimes die in these circumstances; others are left to fend for themselves and resort to self-medicating solutions to block out the pain for the rest of their lives; the weakest ones give up on everyone and everything.

"If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight," so isn't that reason enough to stop fighting ten years after some divorce or falling out?

Is it really that hard to recognize that this chapter of your life isn't about you anymore?  Have you forgotten that you're actually the adult responsible for the health, welfare and safety of your own children?

My prayer for Baby Zara Malani-Lin Abdur has always been that God arrived armed with love and caught her before she hit the water; and that she found comfort in His mighty arms as He swaddled her with His grace.

When this baby cried out from the bottom of the Raritan River, it was clear to me that all adults could learn "something important" if we viewed our own lives and actions - for just these few moments - through the beautiful prism and innocence of Baby Zara's big brown eyes.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Paul J. DiBartolo April 25, 2013 at 03:06 PM
Thank you, Tish and Joe. I think I get it. My questions were asked to raise consciousness about what we are doing. Baby Zara was murdered over three years ago and it still haunts you. What have we done to change the situation that caused her death? Do we attempt to instill in our young as they grow that all life is sacred and to be respected? Since Baby Zara was murdered we have continued in NJ alone to abort 149 children a day bringing us to a total of about 165,000 life ending medical procedures since Baby Zara met her untimely fate. No human being should be subjected to what she was subjected and I am in agreement with you that hers was a heartrending and tragic incident. But still we continue to cheapen life by ending the lives of those who have no protection whatsoever; the weakest of those in society who never had a chance to breathe the air we all take for granted. We were promised that legal abortion would effectively end child abuse but that was a lie. How can we expect our young people to intelligently discern when life is important when we contrast what happened to Baby Zara with what we are finding out happened in the medical establishment run by Dr. Kermit Gosnell in Philadelphia? What is it that set the stage for what went on in his offices? Again, thank you for being so understanding.
Beanie Baby April 25, 2013 at 07:37 PM
Not so fast there Paul Blart. We were NOT told abortion would end child abuse. While it was peripherally mentioned, it was NOT the driving force in the Rowe v Wade decision. You know that and it is you who are lying, or you don't know that and it's another example of you making things up in an attempt to support your position. In regards to the matter of Dr Gosnell, you do understand that he is accused of breaking the law, don't you? Have you considered that repealing Rowe v Wade could lead to more Gosnell-like murders? Probably not, as I have ound your smug arguments to be typically only halfway thought through. Now off with you, there is a report of a purse snatching in front of the mall theater.
Paul J. DiBartolo April 26, 2013 at 12:54 AM
You have just proved that you have no idea what you are talking about, Beanie. I followed the pro-life movement very closely and that was absolutely one of the arguments used to justify the legalization of abortion because with every child a wanted child, child abuse was supposed to end. Did I ever suggest it was the main reason for Roe-v-Wade? Try to keep up, Beanie. And as far as Gosnell and his crimes against humanity, again you show your ignorance of the facts because another argument of the pro-death crowd was that legalizing abortion would end back-alley and illegal abortions. How'd that work out? Your ignorance astounds even me and I have debated some very ignorant people. You have just made any other argument you seek to offer insignificant because you know not of what you speak. How does it feel to wallow in such insignificance? Thanks for the dialog, Beanie, but I am through with you and anybody still reading this, if there is anybody left, can make their own judgments. I am fine with that. Understand that any further argument you attempt to make will be the equivalent of pounding sand. BTW, exactly who did you think to attract to your logic with the pseudonym of Beanie Baby? Another indication of your bad judgment.
Beanie Baby April 26, 2013 at 04:06 AM
To Paul Blart. You seem upset. Rather foamy at the mouth. It's nice to see that you are at least consistent in that you personally attack when you are challenged and have nothing to back it up. Now back on your Segway. Radio Shack has reported a theft of a remote control helicopter. Use your "radar" prowess to hunt them down oh mighty Patch mall cop.
Maureen May 21, 2013 at 05:05 PM
I think your piece is a beautiful, Tish. Many times driving over that bridge I think about that baby, her mother, and all those who love her. I didn't think it was too difficult to understand where you were coming from, and was deeply moved.


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