Over the weekend, I lost my daughter for ten minutes in a big crowd. It was the most scared I have ever been in my entire life.
momlogic's Julie: On Friday night, I went to the opening ceremonies for my kids' Little League. It was held at a local park and there were about 300 people there. My 6-year-old daughter and I left my son with his coach, then went to find a place to sit on the grassy area around the baseball field. I noticed that the grass was wet, so we decided to go get a blanket from the car (which was parked clear on the other side of the park -- about a five-minute walk from where we were).
Just as we started heading that way, a woman from school saw me and stopped me for a quick question. I saw my daughter walk ahead and called for her to stop. It seemed like she was heading in the direction of her brother. There were a lot of kids playing tag so I (stupidly) figured she went to join them.
In the next two or three minutes while this woman was talking to me, I kept looking up and around frantically, and she finally asked me if I was looking for someone. I said, "I don't see my daughter." She smiled and said, "Well, she couldn't have gone far." I excused myself and went to search for my little girl.
The only thing was, she was nowhere to be found. I went over to where the kids were playing tag: No luck. I found her brother, but he hadn't seen her. Meanwhile, I was getting more and more panicky. I was screaming her name as loudly as I could. I went to the snack bar, then ran through the crowd again, shouting her name. I didn't see her. She was gone.
So many things flooded through my mind. I thought of Somer Thompson, the little girl who had run ahead of her brother and sister on the way home from school and was then kidnapped and murdered. I thought of Chelsea King, who had been raped and killed while jogging in a park like this one.
My calls to my daughter got louder, more frantic. My husband was out of town, so I was there all alone. I asked another mother to help me look.
I was praying for the best, while fearing the worst.
In desperation, I decided to head over to my car. It was parallel-parked at the side of a busy street, and you had to climb about fifty steps to get to it. Plus, it was on the opposite end of the park, where it was dark and secluded. There was no way my daughter would have walked there alone. Or so I thought.
As I approached my vehicle, it was so dark I couldn't see a thing. I unlocked the car with my key remote, and the back lights flashed on and off. That's when I saw her standing there, right next to the car, all alone on the side of a busy street.
My daughter was safe. I burst into tears, and my body soon shook with heavy sobs.
I was bawling hysterically as I asked my 6-year-old WHY she would have walked to the car all by herself. Why didn't she wait for Mommy? Didn't she hear me calling? She was so startled by me crying that she started crying hysterically, too. She could never really tell me WHY she had done it. And of course I placed the blame on myself: Why had I allowed her to walk off?
I am completely overprotective. I've warned my kids about kidnappers and predators. I've told them about Somer Thompson. But no matter how many times I had warned her, my daughter still took a five-minute walk in a dark park alone. So obviously I have not done my job. That haunts me.
I am thankful that my story had a happy ending, but I learned firsthand how quickly a child can slip away.
Have you ever lost your kids in a crowd?