Friday, January 23, 2009

Friday Thanks - Lost and Found

So, following on my experience at the inauguration (which was awesome!), we had another... adventure on Tuesday evening/night. Let me set the stage.

N's 25 year old brother (M) is special needs. Not severely so, he's very independent, can communicate just fine (in French), and is basically happy and singing and goofing off a lot of the time. Because he's 25, he wants to assert his independence, so when we'd be walking around, he would head off out in front by himself, but he'd always come back. Until Tuesday.

After the inauguration and our relaxing stint at Starbucks, we headed back to the Mall to watch the parade on the jumbotron. The two boys headed off down the Mall, P and I walked about a block away to see if we could see the actual parade, and N wandered around a little bit closeby to wait for the boys. P and I went back to the Mall (12th street) to wait for them, found some chairs, and sat over a steam grate to get a little bit of heat. N and her younger (11 year old) brother soon showed up, so we all sat there a bit on the heating vent. M still hadn't shown up, so we decided that we'd meet up at 5 or 6 at a sandwich place where we had lunch the previous day, and P and I headed to Chinatown. At this point, my cell was running low on battery. We checked in with N a couple times. The first time, there was still no word from M and she was still waiting (it was dark by that point, and cold). The second time, she said he'd been found on the Metro, and they were going to pick him up, so we arranged to meet at the Metro stop in Maryland near where we were staying. P and I had dinner and then headed out to the stop. They weren't there. I called, using the last of my battery, and she sounded awful. She was at the police station, M had never come back and he hadn't been at the Metro. P and I headed back to my cousin's house so I could charge my phone.

When I got back, I had two messages, one from M, and one from an sergeant in the park service (I'm going to give his full name: Craig Monahan. He did an awesome job helping us, so I wanted to give him his due, as well as hats off to officer Yurico). I called him back, and he said they had tracked M's Metro card use from l'Enfant Plaza to Greenbelt (our Metro stop), but I told him I hadn't seen him there. Then I realized...they were tracking my card. N had owed me money from dinner the night before and had purchased my Metro card along with their three. So they were tracking my card the whole time, and that's why M "disappeared" from the l'Enfant stop. He was never there. We found out later that the Metro services center that was doing the tracking hadn't bothered to check the other cards, just the one with the most recent usage.

P and I had picked up dinner for N in Chinatown, so we loaded it, a cell phone charger, snacks and water into the car and headed in to the city to get N from the park service station. We drove around the city, stopping in bars and restaurants that were still open (it was midnight by this point) to ask if they'd seen him. We stuck to areas mostly that'd he'd been to before because we figured he'd go where he was most comfortable. Then N decided she had to walk, so she got out to check the local ATMs (since they're out of the cold) and P and I drove over to where we'd gone to Starbucks earlier in the day, just in case he ended up there. He hadn't. By the time we reconvened on the Mall, it was almost 3a and we'd been awake for almost 24 hours. My vision was starting to get a little blurry around the edges, so we headed back to Maryland.

N tried to reach her mother in France, but wasn't able to get through. We all did our best to sleep. At 5 or 6a, N's mother called me. My cell phone ring isn't quiet, so my heart was yammering in my chest, because I thought it might be the park service who'd found him. But it turns out that he had been found. The only thing he had in his possession was his Metro card (N had held on to everything else to keep it safe), which was one of the reasons we were worried - he had no money to get food. He used his Metro card to get to the airport (I don't know which one), found an employee there who spoke French (and who was kind enough to buy him a coffee). And somehow, he found a way to phone his mother in France, who then called us. We called the park service, who went to the airport to pick him up (N talked to him on the phone to tell him how exciting a ride in a real police car would be, so he was psyched up about it). We were to pick him up in the morning (or, later in the morning I should say). N woke us up at 9:30 to say that he was at the house, and we should sleep in. A wonderful police/park service agent named Elizabeth (I don't remember her full name) dropped him off all the way out in Maryland.

It turns out the reason he never came back was that he got confused about the Mall...he had come back, but instead of returning to 12th street were we were, he went back to 7th street and didn't find us.

We were really worried while this whole thing was going down, because we didn't know whether he was stuck out in the cold, if he'd run into some unsavory characters, or the like, though we were hoping that all would turn out for the best. And it did. The park service had some wonderful people on staff who did all they could to help us, and they did so in a very friendly and compassionate way. My cousin also was wonderful - she normally goes to bed early and gets up early, but she picked us up at 9:30 at the train, and she woke up when we got home at 4 (I still don't know how she heard us) to find out if everything was ok. She also made fresh bread for us every morning in her bread maker and let us stay an extra day (to get sleep after the long night).

It was a tough situation, but with the five of us working together with the authorities, we were able to pull through it and M came back safe and sound. If you're ever in a like situation (which I really hope you're not), I hope that you have the luck that we had to work with as many wonderful people and to have the situation resolve as well as ours did.

Definitely a Friday, or a whole week, of thanks.


Charlotte said...

Oh wow. What an adventure. I'm so glad everything turned out all right!

Romny said...

Geesh! Glad everyone was safe. Good thinking to go to the airport and find a French speaking person!