I wrote this post several weeks ago. Over a month. But… I hit ‘Save as Draft’. I couldn’t go there. I couldn’t share it with anyone, because my anxiety was huge just thinking about it. But, I feel this is a story I need to share…
I lost my son last night. That’s not a euphemism for death thank God. I literally lost him. We were running the Foam Glow. It’s a 5k held at night with black lights. The combination of the black lights and the extreme darkness of the area in which the Run was held made it very difficult to see the people around you much less people in the middle of a crowd. My son is 14. most of the time when we do 5Ks he runs ahead and waits for me at the finish line. Some days I’m slower than others. On those runs he often walks back and meets me and then does the rest of the run with me. Last night, that’s exactly what he did. Unfortunately, due to the darkness and the flashing lights under a group of runners tutus, he passed right by me without being able to see me.
I got to the finish line, excited that I’d made it even though I have a dislocated rib. I looked around excited to tell my son that I had managed to finish. But I couldn’t find him. I yelled his name. I’ll just name again. I walked through the group of people at the finish line practically screaming at this point. I was with a friend and her granddaughter, all three of us calling for him. I checked the tent where you pick up your metal, I checked the area where people were sitting along the corridor on the other side of the finish line, I checked the people milling around at the actual finish line. He wasn’t anywhere. My heart started to race. My hands went numb. See, my son is 14, but he has Asperger’s syndrome. For those of you that don’t know Asperger’s syndrome is high functioning autism. Crowds are hard for my baby. 5 k’s are one of the places that he pushes himself. He explores his freedom. But it makes him nervous.
After 10 minutes of yelling his name, searching crowds, looking at all the faces, I went to the metal distribution tent. “I can’t find my son. What do I do?” I have a degree in criminal justice. I’ve worked in the criminal justice field off and on over the past 10 years, both with a police department and with a federal enforcement program working specifically with minors. I’ve been trained in what to do with missing children. None of that training did me any good. I couldn’t think through the sheer terror of knowing that my kid was missing. the volunteer working the metal distribution tent directed me to security. I practically ran across the parking lot in the general direction of the security people. It was dark and it was an obvious so I stopped at the merchandise tent and asked how to get ahold of security because I couldn’t find my kid. There’s a security officer right there.
The security officer walked me over to another set of safety and security personnel. The man, whose name I can’t remember in the aftermath of the confusion, immediately ask for description and got it over the radio. Another man walked up and took the description as well as my son’s name to announce over the loudspeaker at the rave like party happening post-race. The head of safety and security, an amazingly efficient but kind woman, came over and got his description so she could take the golf cart and drive the race route. The man I originally spoke with was assigned to stay with me. At the time it didn’t occur to me how kind it was to assign someone to the mom. but this man stayed with me. This man had a radio. This man was in constant communication with the other people looking for my son. After a few minutes, he told me we didn’t have to just stand there if I wanted to walk. through my tears I told him I wanted to go back to the finish line because that’s where my son was supposed to wait for me. we were only about halfway across the parking lot when I saw the golf cart. The man signaled with his flashlight to show them where we were. As they drove up the woman asked if this was my son. My arms went numb with relief. I felt like my heart was going to burst. My kid got off the back of the golf cart. He wrapped his arms around me. All five foot nine of this child steam to try to climb onto my hip like he did when he was little. I think the security people, through tears of relief. I have never been that scared in my entire life.
My son, all five foot nine, 14 years old of him grabs my hand. He didn’t let go until we got to the truck. He held my hand like he did when he was four.part of me had known that that’s exactly what he done. That he got into the finish line. That he’d waited for me. That I hadn’t shown up when he thought I should. And that he gone back looking for me. Part of me knew that. Part of me ran every worst case scenario possible. part of me wondered if somebody had snatched My beautiful boy. Part of me wondered if I was ever going to see him again.