The Day I Realized it Could Happen to Us

It was a hot, humid summer day last year when we decided to take our family to the local fair. The sky seemed as if it might rain, but the forecast was calling for rain a little later that day. We expected we would be on our way home by the time it would begin.

We arrived at the fair, put Hudson and Addie in their two-seater Radio Flyer wagon, and little Amos cruised in the stroller. The kids were having a blast! They rode pretty much every kiddie ride there and Hudson especially enjoyed the race cars. He belly-laughed every time his yellow car wheeled around the two left turns on the oval track – the centrifugal force pushing him to the outside, sandwiching him between his little sister and the side of the car.

We were down to our last couple of tickets and it looked as if it might begin to rain at any moment. Right next to the race cars that Hudson and Addie had just ridden twice was one of those funhouse mazes (which I have always loathed). But it seemed like a good activity to end our time at the fair.  So, Adam took each of their hands and they headed into the funhouse.

By that time, it was beginning to drizzle, so Amos and I parked underneath the ledge of a food trailer directly across from the funhouse as I waited for Adam and the kids to come into view. Adam emerged at the top and as I was making my way over to the funhouse, he was making his way over to the slide. There was a wall at the top that made it impossible to see the kids. By the time I got over to the slide, Addie was coming down, so I assumed Hudson would come next. Hudson didn’t come next. He had already come down the slide.

My heart raced as Adam and I looked to the right and to the left, hoping that he hadn’t gone far. He was nowhere in sight. Adam swept Addie up and ran one way, while Amos and I prepared to sprint in the opposite direction. All the while, 20 of the worst case scenarios were streaming through my mind. Before I bolted off, a gentleman grabbed my shoulder and pointed in the direction of the funhouse. I looked. There was Hudson trying to figure out how to get back into the funhouse to go down the slide again. I ran over to him and pulled him close to me. Completely unaware of what had just transpired and the years that had just been shaven off of my total lifespan as a result, he began throwing a fit at the prospect of getting back into the wagon and leaving the funhouse. Nevertheless, he was strapped into the wagon and we headed straight for the exit.

I am so thankful that there were good people there who were able to put two and two together as they observed two parents losing their minds over their lost child and a lone little boy pushing past person after person in a line of about 15 people.

When we got back into the van, Adam looked over at me and said, “I think we need to consider one of those bracelets”.

He was talking about Project Lifesaver. I had heard about Project Lifesaver a few times before from different employees of the county school system. Now I understood the puzzled looks I received when I declined Hudson’s participation in the program.

Before that summer day at the fair, the idea of my son wearing a bracelet that could be used to locate him seemed nothing short of sketchy to me. After all, Hudson wasn’t a runner. And there would never be a time in public when his hand would not be in mine. There would be no chance at all that he would ever leave my sight. There’s a reason why I’m exhausted after being in public with him. All five of my senses are hyper-alert. There was no need for a Project Lifesaver bracelet.

Do you ever notice how parents (mostly before they have kids) make haughty declarations about all the things they and their kids will never do? Then they have kids. They learn that they are not perfect and their kids are no better than anyone else’s kids.

That hot, summer day was a reminder to me of the simple and obvious fact that I am not perfect.  No matter how alert I am, my senses will fail me. There will be lapses in communication. The Lord was good and gracious to reveal that to me in an effective way. The panic lasted only about a minute, but I will never, ever forget it. It is burned into my subconscious and materializes in my worst nightmares. It’s always scary when any child goes missing. But when a child has limited ability to verbally express himself, no concept of danger, and other unique concerns, it becomes even more difficult to recover him before it’s too late.

Needless to say, Hudson now wears a Project Lifesaver bracelet. Should he go missing, the chances of him being recovered alive and well are very, very good if authorities are notified in a timely manner. In fact, the average recovery time for clients of Project Lifesaver is 30 minutes.  That’s 95% less time than recovery operations without the bracelet. The Project Lifesaver bracelet does not use GPS. It locates an individual by using radio technology that transmits a client’s assigned individual frequency.

If you have a loved one with cognitive limitations or one prone to wandering, check with your local sheriff’s department for details regarding the Project Lifesaver program. If you are able, consider donating to your local agency through your local sheriff’s department. For more information, visit https://projectlifesaver.org/about-us/.

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