And he did -- but in ways neither he nor the mom could've expected.
Still, a week later at the fundraiser, Raines was elated by the chance meeting with Sylvester. As he expressed remorse over the boy's death, she overflowed with gratitude. And they hugged.
"It turned out to be a joyful moment," recalled Raines, 29. "It started the healing process."
Sylvester, a 13-year veteran of the force, felt likewise. He was glad for a meaningful connection in the aftermath of a tragic outcome.
"I think about it every day," he said.
Over the past week, Raines steeled herself for the final goodbye. Jeremiah, who had been excited to start kindergarten in the fall, instead was to be laid to rest Saturday.
"I go to bed crying. I wake up crying," Raines said days before the funeral. "I burst out crying in front of people. ...
"But I've got to be strong. I'm his mother, so I've still got to take care of him. Until he is in the ground, I've got to take care of him."
A single mom, Raines lives in an apartment in
Jeremiah loved to ride his bike -- he'd learned without training wheels -- but had an eye for luxury cars, especially the Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen. Still, he also longed to one day drive a police cruiser: After meeting a kindly cop at age 3, he declared a career choice.
"He wanted to be a police officer," his mom said with a proud grin.
Meanwhile, he had a flair for sparking smiles, starting with his own -- as evidenced in the endless photos taken by his own hand.
"We called him 'King of the Selfies,'" his mom said. "He'd grab your phone and just start taking pictures of himself. ...
"He was a happy little kid. He always woke up happy, and there was just something special about him."
In early June,
"It was like a lightning bolt went through me," Raines said. "I hadn't had energy like that all week."
Meanwhile, Jeremiah's dad called
Raines' mind raced with panic, thinking her son might've been abducted.
"Whose car?" she worried frantically. "We don't even have a license-plate number!"
She joined the search, as did adults at the complex. She overheard one say something about already having searched for Jeremiah at the complex's outdoor swimming pool. But then she saw a rush of people surge toward the pool, and she realized what had happened: Jeremiah somehow had slipped into the pool.
"Jeremiah didn't know how to swim," she said, "so I'm sure he was scared."
The officers spotted Jeremiah at the bottom of the pool. One -- Sylvester -- jumped in, pulled out the unresponsive boy and started CPR.
"You're not trained for something like this," recalled Sylvester, 39. "You're not trained to dive after a 5-year-old boy at the bottom of a 9-foot pool.
"But I have four kids myself. ... So I'm around pools a lot in the summer."
Soon, an ambulance arrived and whisked the boy to
A doctor came to the waiting room with dire news for Raines. Though his team could continue to try to restart the boy's heart, his brain likely already had been severely damaged.
He asked what Raines would like them to do. She said to stop.
"I didn't want to do it," she said, crying. "It was the worst day of my life. It still is."
Still, a week later, she put on a tight grin -- along with a custom-made "Jeremiah Forever" T-shirt -- to attend a fundraiser at Monkey Joe's,
As the event wound down, one of the guests had car trouble: In the parking lot, the sunroof had become unmoored. So, Raines and others went outside to help tape it shut, some even climbing atop the roof to lend a hand.
"It looked really weird," Raines said with a slight smile.
At the sight, Sylvester pulled up. Raines was busy with the window as Sylvester talked to other guests, one of whom eventually made the connection between the patrolman and Raines. The guest led Sylvester to Raines, telling her, "This is the officer who pulled Jeremiah out of the pool."
Raines was stunned, especially as an apologetic Sylvester told her, "I wish I would've gotten there a little earlier." But Raines shook her head and told him, "He was already gone. You did the best you could."
Then it was Sylvester's turn for a surprise. Raines told him, "I'm sorry you had to go through all that." Though he told her that she had no reason to apologize, the sentiment touched him.
"I was amazed by that," he said. "A lot of times, the public forgets that police officers are people, too. And for her to say something like that, which was completely unnecessary, it was unbelievable."
Outside Monkey Joes, she asked for a hug, and he eagerly complied. She began to sob, and a little while later they went their separate ways.
In the days approaching the funeral, Raines and the family continued to mourn.
"It's an uneasy feeling," Raines said. "But I know where he is. ... He's home now with my lord and savior,
The death remains under investigation, including how the boy ended up in the pool. However, authorities say Jeremiah drowned; he had suffered no injuries, and no foul play is suspected.
One of the boy's aunts,
"He's with God," the 39-year-old said. "He's in heaven. God gives us things -- our children, our people -- as gifts. God gives them to us for a little while."
In just a short lifetime, Jeremiah left a long legacy, she said.
"Jeremiah was God's messenger, and he really brought a message,"
"He touched a lot of people," she said. "He was really loved, and just 5 years old."
Jeremiah's funeral was set for
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