“Are you a Mom? Are you a Mom?”
That was the frantic question students asked Marianne Laux on April 20 when they found University of Dayton student Michael Fuchs lying injured outside of the Marycrest Complex dorm after suffering a six-story fall.
Laux was, indeed, a mom, and instinct took over as she comforted the 19-year-old freshman and tried to keep him still, stroking his cheek and reassuring him, “Everything is going to be all right, sweetie;” and, “Stay with me, sweetie, help is on the way.”
“I just did what any mother would have done. What if this were my daughter?” she said.
Laux had just dropped her daughter Elaine off at her Marycrest dorm room after she and her husband, Steve, celebrated their daughter’s 19th birthday at home in West Chester Twp. Balloons and “Happy Birthday” banners had transformed Elaine’s room into a festive scene, but her birthday took a dramatically different turn when her mother called for help. “I don’t mind at all that this happened on my birthday,” Elaine Laux said. “I’m just glad I could be there to help.”
Marianne Laux took Fuchs’ pulse and cradled his head, keeping it steady. She also reassured the stricken students who stood by, wanting to help, yet fearing he would not make it. Elaine recalled how they anxiously asked, “Is he alive?” — fearing another tragedy like the April 2 death of 18-year-old Larry Cook after he fell from the sixth floor of the Stuart Complex.
Laux said she never doubted that Fuchs would make it, even though she noticed that his breathing was very labored. By the time the EMTs arrived, about five minutes after the 911 call, “I had become very invested in Michael,” Laux recalled. “I was grateful they let me stay with him while they worked on him.”
Michael’s parents, Mary and Rich Fuchs of Edison, N.J., credit the Good Samaritans with saving their son’s life. “We are very grateful to Marianne and Elaine, a truly fine mom-and-daughter team,” Mary said. Fuchs, 19, is recovering from his injuries at Miami Valley Hospital, where his condition has been upgraded to fair. He fractured a vertebrae and broke his leg in several places, but he is expected to make a good recovery.
Laux revisited the back entrance to Marycrest Tuesday afternoon when she came to help Elaine to move out of her dorm. “It’s a miracle he lived,” she marveled, looking back and forth from the sixth-floor window from which he fell to the stone pavement where she found him.
Fuchs’ parents visited Elaine on campus to thank her. Elaine said the entire campus has been praying for Fuchs, and she is looking forward to meeting him one day. “He was spared for a reason,” she said. “He was meant to live and to continue on and to have a full life.”
The Montgomery County Coroner’s Office has ruled Cook’s death a suicide, and Dayton police are still investigating. Cook’s family has hired a lawyer to dispute the suicide ruling and claim a cover-up by the university and police.
Dayton police have ruled out a suicide attempt in Fuchs’ fall. Results of toxicology tests are pending, but Fuchs’ parents believe that either illegal drugs or alcohol may have been a factor. They said they were not aware of any substance abuse issues during his high school years.
Neither the Fuchs nor the Laux families blame UD for the accident. “This could have happened at any campus,” said Laux, a 1987 UD graduate. “UD has such a culture of love, respect and taking care of each other.”
Elaine, a senator for the UD Student Government Association, said she has wanted to come to UD since the third grade, adding, “It was the best decision I’ve ever made. There is such a community feeling here.”
She said she hopes her campus will be judged not by the eerie coincidence of the two sixth-story falls from dorm rooms, but by the compassionate response as students continue to pray for both victims and their families.
“This could have happened at any university,” Marianne Laux said.
She feels Elaine is very safe at UD: “There are a lot of second moms on campus who look out for my daughter.”
She said she will always be grateful for the chance to be Michael Fuchs’ stand-in mom. “It was nothing you think about,” she recalled. “It’s a reflex; you do what you hope another mother would do for your child.”
She added, “Michael has a piece of my heart forever.”
In the month since University of Dayton freshman Larry Cook fell to his death from a sixth-floor window, the Dayton Daily News has provided the most informed coverage of the incident and its aftermath. For more on the UD story, read Sunday’s Dayton Daily News.