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‘I wasn’t there to catch her last night’: Buffalo grandfather mourns toddler killed in driveway

Ryan Nicole Davis was two months shy of her second birthday when a vehicle ran over her Thursday night in the driveway of a Fernhill Avenue home, just down the street from where she lived.

She died a short time later.

The 50-year-old woman who was driving the car was cooperating with police investigators.

Ryan’s grandfather, Leonard Lane, does not understand how the tragedy occurred. And he struggled Friday morning with the loss.

“Every time I came home, she’d hear my voice and wait at the top of the stairs for me,” Lane said. “ ‘Poppy!’ she’d cry, and then she jumped into my arms. She didn’t have to ask. She knew I’d catch her. I wasn’t there to catch her last night. Now she’s looking for Poppy in heaven.”

As word of the accident spread through the close-knit neighborhood, neighbors rushed to the Lane home to pay their respects. As president of the Tri-Street Block Club, Lane is known for his compassion and leadership. As founder of FATHERS. an anti-violence group, he helped struggling families deal with the challenges of urban life.

Ryan was the youngest of his five grandchildren. Lane called them Poppy Kids, and this summer Ryan was his constant companion.

Just hours before her death, Ryan was christened by a sprinkler.

“She was a little hesitant, so I had to go first,” Lane recalled Friday morning. “Once she felt the coolness of the water on her skin, she played and played.”

Lane frequently took his granddaughter to the playground at School 61. The school at Leroy and Grider avenues is home base for FATHERS. It’s where the group was started after two stray bullets entered the kindergarten room in 2000.

“She loved the slides,” Lane recalled of Ryan. “When you’re that young, that’s really all she could do.”

The spirit of Ryan will live on through the organs her family donated, Lane said.

“Some baby somewhere is waiting for an organ,” Lane said. “Ryan was a gift from God. He gave her to us, and now we have His gift to others.”

He is determined to honor her memory.

“She loved to dance,” he said. “Every time you saw her, she was smiling with big eyes, barrettes in her hair and a Teddy bear.”

A street party will mark Ryan’s passing. It will feature popcorn, Sno-cones, candy and a bounce house.

“We’re going to have a celebration on the street for everyone,” he said. “This could have happened to any one of us.”

Lane has not talked to the driver of the vehicle that struck and killed his granddaughter. But he said he holds no bad feelings.

“We want to put our arms around the driver,” he said. “We are a family of love.”