One day when Jimmy was 3, we went to a large, crowded playground with two other Moms and a group of 9 children. Other than Jake, who was a baby in a stroller, Jimmy was the youngest of the group. The kids were playing near the entrance to the playground and had all stayed together the entire time we were there. I noticed a man standing at the entrance that had no children with him. I didn’t think much of it until I looked away for a bit too long to get something for Jake and looked back up only to realize Jimmy was not with the rest of the kids anymore. The man was gone also. I usually am not one to jump to the worst conclusion but, at that moment, I was convinced that the man had grabbed Jimmy.
What happened next is at the same time a blur and a very vivid image, even though it doesn’t seem possible to be both. What I remember most is the feeling that everything was spinning around me. Spinning and spinning and spinning. Horribly whizzing by like I was on a broken carnival ride that was getting faster and faster and just wouldn’t stop. Everything seemed dark, even though it was the middle of the day. It seemed like a nightmare, like I wasn’t really there.
The entire playground is covered in deep mulch that is nearly impossible to push a stroller through but somehow that day I pushed that stroller at full speed throughout the playground frantically scanning every child, praying to see the shirt he was wearing. For some reason I looked at shirts, not faces. I guess I thought I could spot a color quicker than looking at each face. When I got to the other end of the playground, I found Jimmy. Sitting in a pretend bus at the edge of the woods, happily playing. He had no idea why I was on the verge of tears.
This seemed like an eternity. It was probably 4 minutes.
On July 21, a high school classmate’s 16 year old niece disappeared. My heart ached for her family. Missing a child for not 4 minutes but 4 WEEKS. 28 days. 672 hours. 40,320 minutes. 2,419,200 seconds. And I’m sure her parents will always remember every single one of those torturous seconds. The agony. The panic. The pain. The prayers. The doubt. The hope. The hopelessness. The unknown. The spinning. I truly can’t imagine how unbearable that would be. Not knowing where she was, if they’d ever see her again.
She is 16. Jimmy is now 16. What would I do if he disappeared like that. Would I go check that pretend bus again?? Would I look for his shirt on every person that I walked by? Would the spinning feeling ever stop?
I’ve never met the missing teen, but I felt like I knew her through the ordeal. Through the thousands who prayed and offered suggestions or words of encouragement. The kind souls that passed out flyers or shared her information on Facebook, Twitter, email and any other way possible. She has so many, many people that care about her. People that wanted this to be over before her parents had to endure the 2,419,201st second of worry.
The best post showed up in my newsfeed last night on Facebook. The teen was found, safe and sound. About 1,000 miles from home. But safe. I went to bed thinking how the parents must be feeling. The anticipation of picking her up. Knowing they will get to see her again, hug her, tell her they love her. The incredible, indescribable relief.
The spinning is over.