The morning of Sept. 8, 2008, was like most mornings for Thomas S. Vander Woude, a former airline pilot who, in retirement, kept a farm in Nokesville, Virginia. He went to Mass, and then turned to the relentless demands of his 26 acres. By his side was his youngest son, Joseph, known as Josie, who was 20 at the time, and who had Down Syndrome. Josie's six older brothers had long ago moved away from home, but Josie was his father's inseparable companion.
While Thomas was working, Josie was off in a different part of the yard when a broken septic-tank cover gave way under his feet, and he slid in. Vander Woude, from a distance, saw his son fall. He understood right away that Josie was in mortal danger. The tank was 8 feet deep, and filled almost to the top with waste.
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