It has been 10 years since I learned my girl was a flight risk. Today, I am sharing my journal entry of Gracie’s search and rescue so long ago:
One of my life’s simple pleasures is to just enjoy the surroundings I live in. The kids and I live at the end of a dirt lane, in a quaint cottage styled home, surrounded by woods. Along the side of the property, just a short walk past the woods, there is a small creek that softly babbled along. If you jump the creek you cross the county line. Encroachment with housing developments are going up in every available spot on the other side of the creek. Restrictions prevent them from destroying the tree line along their side, so it remains heavily wooded. We listened to their destruction during the summer tearing trees apart with their machinery as simply as I pulled weeds from my garden. Houses can now be barely seen through the tree line.
I sat outside this afternoon enjoying the cool September breeze enjoying the kids squealing with laughter while jumping on the trampoline. The aroma of chicken and rice wafted through the air reminding me I better go stir the pot before it burns. In the kitchen, I could still see the kids through the window. They were still hopping along the trampoline. I am not sure what distracted me. It could have been the hot spoon of chicken & rice I was blowing on. I waited for a taste that wouldn’t be too hot. Or perhaps it was a thought that lingered too long leaving me unaware. I looked back out the window and I wondered, ” Where was Grace?” My beautiful non verbal girl with autism was gone. I ran out. “Boys, where is your sister?” They paused jumping long enough to say, “She was just here.” I ran to every possible hiding place out in the yard. I ran back into the house trying not to panic but still screaming, “GRACE!, GRACIE!!” each step of the way. I couldn’t find her. I yelled, “Boys, stay right here!” as I took off down the lane.
At the end of our lane, I found my elderly neighbor waiting beside the main road for his church’s van. He reassured me she couldn’t have gone that way. He would have seen her. I ran back home. My stomach sank at the thought Grace had gone into the woods. I ran back inside the house grabbed the phone, turned the stove off, hollered for the boys, and searched the house yet again, all while calling 911. I continued searching while I gave Grace’s description to the dispatcher. Police were on the way. Back out the door. Running into the woods out back. “GRACE!! GRACIE!!!” “Come on boys, keep up!!” Matthew stopped in his tracks… “Come on Matt!” He just stood there. “Momma, we need Jesus.” “Right. You’re right, Matthew, we do. Pray while we go this way.” Only 7-year-old Matthew had the wisdom to pray, what kind of example was I?
The police arrived. 2 cars then a third pulled up. They took one look at all the woods surrounding us and agreed they needed backup. One began organizing the search and rescue with someone over their radio. 2 others listened and then began calling for help. They requested firefighters and a K-9 unit. Another calmed me while getting Grace’s description again. What was she wearing? How tall is she? What color hair and eyes? You know all these things as a Mom but it takes an amazing amount of effort to focus on answering questions while your mind races in crisis. The radios buzzed with spoken coded messages only they seemed to understand, while searched deeper into the woods. An Officer suddenly motioned for us to stop, “Mam, Chesapeake has her. You’ll need to come with us. She’s going to need your reassurance.”
Matthew, Patrick and I followed Suffolk’s police to Chesapeake to go pick up Grace. She must have jumped the creek and wandered through the woods into the newly built housing community. I parked the car and ran to the house where the Chesapeake police cars were. Grace’s face lit up when she saw me. Running into my arms she squealed one of the few words she knows, “Maama!!!” On the ride back home I over heard Matthew telling Grace, “I knew you would be okay. Jesus went with ya, didn’t He?”