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Daniel's Song : His life was full of high notes. Those who knew him wonder why that sweet singing had to end so early.

August 18, 1995|DUANE NORIYUKI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Footsteps no longer thump across the floor when the ice cream truck jingles, the telephone jangles or when Henry Isaac swings open the door as he returns home from work. Life has a different sound now. The house seems empty without footsteps.

The death of his grandson, Daniel Christopher Raggette, brought besetting silence to the lives of family and friends. Late at night, while Daniel's mother lies awake in bed, she no longer hears his snoring emanating from the tiny bed next to hers in the room they shared since his birth; no more sighs or tossing about. Who would have thought that footsteps and snores could be music? But from the sudden silence in her life, Andrea Raggette, 31, has come to think of Daniel's life as a song--sweetly sung, filled with high notes, abruptly ended.

"I feel very lost," she says in a soft, weary voice. "I don't know what my purpose in life is anymore. I don't know where to go, where to turn. . . . I have buried my son and saw to it that he had a proper burial. I have prayed that the Lord would come and get me also."

The two lived with Andrea's parents, Marie and Henry Isaac, in a small house on a quiet street in Leimert Park. Daniel was her only child.

In many ways, Daniel was old beyond his years. He enjoyed being around adults, having grown-up discussions, playing dominoes or poker for chips with his "Papa"--as he called his grandfather.

He would warn Papa that too much hot sauce wasn't good for his high blood pressure. "You eat your dinner, and I'll eat mine," Henry Isaac would tell him.

"OK," Daniel would reply. "Just don't use so much."

He was a serious little guy, a perfectionist. When vacuuming, he would go over the same spot again and again, attacking the smallest crumb, until finally told to put the vacuum cleaner away. He performed housework without being told.

Sometimes adults had to remind themselves that he was a child, delighted by the adventures of Power Rangers and still young enough to cling to a tentative, hopeful belief in Santa.

His final day was like many others in his life, custom-made for a little boy. His mother and grandmother, "Nana," were taking him to buy tickets for the circus, price decorations for the Isaacs' upcoming 25th wedding anniversary and exchange a toy given to him as a gift.

They went to the Sports Arena first and bought circus tickets--front row, center. Daniel said he hoped the clowns would see him in the stands and choose him to be a part of their raucous, baggy-pants antics.

He asked his mother if she would take him over to the Coliseum, where he had seen his beloved Raiders play so often on television. Andrea drove into the parking lot, allowing him to peer through the gates. As they drove, he mourned the Raiders' departure from Los Angeles. It was in those simple terms that he understood life's injustice.

They arrived at the balloon shop on Vermont near 55th Street, where two weeks earlier they had bought decorations for his kindergarten graduation party. Daniel was trying to explain to Nana the difference between aqua and teal, the darker of which he contended would be a perfect match for the planned decor.

"Are you colorblind, Nana?" he asked.

"Maybe I am," she said. They both laughed.

It was the day before the Fourth of July. The gunshots sounded like firecrackers as they sliced through the dark, tinted glass of the store, blindly stealing life. And footsteps.

Daniel Raggette was only 6 years old.

A Life of Fun Days

A special child who had touched many lives.

Andrea Raggette says she had heard that line often as a description of children caught up in tragedy. It was a fitting portrait of Daniel.

Something more inviting than his sparkling eyes and soft features drew people to her son. It was an indescribable quality that sometimes scared her. Strangers would approach and ask to touch him. It wouldn't bother her when they merely shook his hand or even touched his cheek, but it went beyond that.

"Some people would come up to us and ask if they could touch his heart," she says. "It would scare me. My heart would fall like a roller coaster whenever that happened. I didn't understand why they would want to do that."

Others saw it too. They say there was just something about Danny.

In dark moments, Andrea feared Daniel would be taken from her at an early age. She attributed her feelings to being a first-time mother in a world that could be frightening. When such feelings came, she beseeched God to not take him now. Not yet.

She made each birthday a huge celebration, renting tables and chairs and hiring clowns. Occasionally, she kept him home from kindergarten for "fun days" so the two of them could spend time with each other.

From his first breath to his last, Daniel made a deep, lasting impression. During the final stages of Andrea's pregnancy, her stepfather, Henry Isaac, slept with his shoes next to the bed, always prepared to rush her to the hospital. He has no children of his own.

The first time he held Daniel, he thanked God.

'A Very Deep Valley'

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