Keeping a family together, after tragedy strikes

Andrews Family
When her sister died, Chanda Taylor took in her 8 nieces and nephews.

We always saw this story, and still do, as a heartwarming feature.

Chanda Taylor, a low-wage mail room clerk, loses her sister in an accident and takes in all eight of her sister's children.

Admirable? Yes. Easy? Not at all.

Life in the Taylor household is gritty, hard and real. Every week the food bill exceeds $500. There are three different schools and Chanda's still learning where the children go to the doctor. Her 20-year-old Nissan seats five.

Chanda needs food stamps, plus help from her extended family and churches - plus an understanding workplace (DC law firm Latham and Watkins) to make it all work.

Twice, our visits to the family had to be postponed because of trips to the emergency room (nothing serious.) Another visit, on a Sunday, was postponed after Chanda realized several

of the children needed clothes. She has preserved a close family but, from nowhere, Chanda Taylor has assumed a tough, complicated life.

When we did start taping and Chanda was on camera she held her emotions in check. Off camera was a different story. During several phone conversations with producer Carrie Rabin, Chanda cried, describing how she gets through the day or when recalling her relationship with her sister Tara.

From start to finish, I couldn't get one question out of my head: who does this?

Who takes on this level of responsibility: nine children (8 plus her son) when your job barely pays $12 an hour-- and when so many alternative choices, including foster care, or sending the children to willing fathers might have been reasonably made? Taking one, two or three children after a family tragedy would represent a sacrificial level of love and duty--but eight?

Chanda's answer to the question is telling and poignant. When her sister Tara died from an accidental drowning last October, Chanda, who was close to her sister and to her eight nephews and nieces, was determined to see that the children not be split up. She and Tara had grown up in different homes after their parents separated --and to Chanda living those early years apart from her sister involved a level of pain she still feels deeply and which she did not want to see inflicted on eight children in mourning.

Two of the older children, Tyren, 17, and Diamond, 14, described what happened next gratefully, but quite simply. "Aunt Chanda," they said, "stepped up."

Wyatt Andrews is a CBS News correspondent based in Washington, D.C.

  • Wyatt Andrews

    Wyatt Andrews is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Washington D.C. He is responsible for tracking trends in politics, health care, energy, the environment and foreign affairs.