Connecticut Doctor Who Lost Family in Home Invasion Worries About New Son

William Petit, Jr., Who Lost Family in Home Invasion, Speaks Out in Interview
Dr. William Petit Jr. and Christine Petit
Cindy Hawke-Renn

10/02/2014 AT 11:30 AM EDT

Dr. William Petit Jr. has a new life with his wife, Christine, and baby son, William Petit III, but something as simple as a song or smell can send him back to the horror of the day he lost his first family, he says in a new interview with the Hartford Courant.

"And all of a sudden you're down the slippery slope and you're back there, which is terrible," Petit, 58, told the paper in a rare interview.

On July 23, 2007, Petit's wife, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48, and daughters Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11, died after two men broke into their home and set it on fire. Jennifer was strangled to death while Hayley and Michaela died from smoke inhalation.

Both men – Joshua Komisarjevsky, 34, and Steven Hayes, 51 – have been convicted and are now on death row.

Petit said he's come a long way since that night.

"I used to have awful weeks and awful days," he told the paper. "Now, most of the time, it's awful minutes and hours."

But once something happens that does trigger memories of that night, it's a difficult process to stop.

"That happened last night while I was thinking about the baby," he said, referring to William, 11 months. "Racing thoughts, thinking, 'What if something happens to the baby? What would you do? What would you think?' "

"And then I'm thinking about Michaela, thinking about Hayley, thinking about Jennifer," he said. "My brain is just thinking all of these terrible memories."

Still, the foundation he started in their memories has helped him heal, he said.

"I want some good to come because they would have done an awful lot of good if they had lived their natural lives," he said. "I want their lives to go forward, and I want to be able to pay it forward for them."

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