I Watched My Worst Nightmare Play Out Yesterday in Real-Time
Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine when I woke up yesterday morning I’d be helping search for a missing child by the afternoon. I watched one of my biggest nightmares as a parent unfold, only it wasn’t my child that was missing.
My husband Dave and I took our 2 ½ year old son Charlie to Munsinger Garden to get out of the house after work. It was early afternoon, a little cloudy and pretty quiet. It was actually a really nice day out minus the cloud cover.
We were having a great time walking around, checking out the caged birds, throwing rocks in the river and chasing squirrels…those things are all the rage when you’re 2.
Charlie discovered the tiny cabin by the river. He started running up and down the ramp. Out of nowhere a police officer started walking straight at us. I thought, ‘uh oh! Maybe we aren’t supposed to be playing over here.”The policeman asked, “have you folks been here awhile?”
I thought it was a strange question, but I answered him with, “yeah, a little while. Maybe 30 minutes?” He followed up with, “have you seen a young boy wondering around anywhere, wearing a superman shirt?”
My husband and I both looked at each other as if one of us could help the other recall. We looked like a couple of deer in the headlights.
We both told the officer that we hadn’t. Then again, I have tunnel vision when I’m focused on watching Charlie, so maybe we did and I didn’t remember. The officer let us know there was a boy missing and was last seen close to our area not long ago. We were instructed to call 911 if we saw him.
At this point, a family close to us was in earshot of our conversation with the police officer. They asked us what was going on. We really didn’t know a whole lot.
We also weren't sure if we were supposed to stay and help look for the boy or if we'd just be in the away of investigators and police officers. I started noticing more officers arriving to the park.
We decided to start walking around Munsinger looking for a boy with a superman shirt. I figured, if it were my son, I’d want as many people searching as possible. My husband called our newsroom to let them know what was going on.
That’s when fear sunk in. We saw a boat with 3 rescue workers looking for the boy in the river. I felt a huge pit in my stomach like I’ve never felt before. This wasn’t TV, this was real life unfolding in front of us in real-time.
We were looking around the park for about 15 minutes before the search team came close to shore by where we were and my two ½ year old had no idea what was going on. So, he called out to the boat and said, “HIIIII. I didn’t’ think the team could hear him but the rescue team looked up, and smiled at Charlie giving a wave and a friendly, “Hi” in return.
I wasn’t expecting them to acknowledge him at all. If I were them, I’d probably have tunnel vision. It was that moment I realized how amazing the three of those people were. There they were searching for a missing child on the river, one of the hardest jobs I can imagine doing and they still had a moment to spare to be friendly toward my child.
Helicopters and drones started circling the air. That’s when my husband and I decided it was time to leave. There was really nothing we could do to help the situation at that point, especially with our toddler there.
We walked back to the car and were almost completely silent the whole way home. By the time we pulled into our garage multiple news outlets were already reporting the story. I had to put my phone down and get my mind off the situation.
I kept looking at my own son and feeling so much sadness for the missing boy’s mom. The scary thing is, I could exactly imagine how she was feeling in that moment and it was gut wrenching and heartbreaking.
Later that night I was scrolling through my Facebook feed when I saw the amazing news. The boy had been found at a friend’s house. A wave of relief washed over me. I’ve seen this scenario play out on the news many times where the ending isn’t a happy one.
I want to give a huge shout out to the police officers, first responders, drone operators, search crews and other staff members on site yesterday. Thanks to them, the boy was found SAFE. Today, I’ve got a new perspective. Hug your children extra tight because you never know what the day is going to bring.