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saturday 10.14.2000

i have a very good excuse for not writing yesterday, and not just because it was friday the 13th. my youngest came up missing. a bit of history that leads up to yesterday's mess first. last summer i knew i was going to have a bit of trouble dealing with the younger two kids school schedules. they get on the bus in the morning at about the same time, and off to come home about the same time. they are even on the same track (we're on year-round), so the month they have off they have off at the same time. problem is, his bus comes to our curb out in front of our house (because he's special ed), and hers is around the corner on the next block over. he's 8 and differently-abled, she's 6 1/2. add to that we live in one of the WORST neighborhoods and you see the problem. i didn't want her going to and from the bus alone, but i have to be at the house to meet his bus and he most definitely cannot be alone. mind you, at the moment there could be a 10-20 minute difference in bus times, but if his is late and hers is early, there's no way for me to do it. there just isn't two of me. i tried requesting that she be transferred to one of her sisters' schools so that the older sister could walk with her to and from the bus. no go. the school district gave the excuse of "no room" (which is bogus because in california schools there isn't any room ANY where).

being a resourceful person, i asked dad to take her in in the morning, and had the oldest girl bring her home in the afternoon. that way, no matter what happens with the busing, she is in school on time for breakfast, i don't have to split myself in two and she gets home with someone in the afternoon. this worked until teacher conferences. for a week and a half, they have been coming home over an hour earlier than big sis. so, there has been no choice but to have her walk home alone. i'm not happy with it, but by NOT transferring her the school district really has given me no choice. still, she generally manages to get in before her brother by a few minutes, always comes over and gives me a hug and shows me the miscellaneous papers that seem to be required by the schools. and ALL my kids have been told they are to come straight home from the bus. i am not, however, totally unreasonable. i know buses can be late, can break down, etc. so i give leeway when a child is late.

yesterday the youngest was a half an hour late before i called anyone, expecting to hear there was a busing problem somewhere. the school reports she is not on the grounds and that they know of no bussing issues for her route. so i call transportation and they say not only is there no bussing issues, but she was dropped off at her stop at the appropriate time. i flipped. emce was here and i told him she was missing, and he immediately went out looking for her, covering an area 7 blocks by 2 blocks, every street, every alley. i call dad in an absolute panic and leave a message on his pager. saxy calls while i wait for the call back, and he knows i am in a panic. when i tell him, HE flips out. when we got off the phone, he called the police and had to get off the dispatch board because he was breathing so hard everyone was afraid he'd hyperventilate. dad calls and is already in the city where he works (an hour away), he calls off work and heads on over.

by the time the police show up i am a basket case. no one has seen her. emce can't find her. i kept walking out to the front lawn hoping she would run up and give me a hug. i was a hysterical wreck and it was all the officers could do to get anything out of me. filing the report was a nightmare and had to keep going to find information because my mind was literally blank on what they wanted to know. within an hour, 4 officers were canvassing the neighborhood with pictures of her, police dogs were searching for her, neighbors were on the look out for her. dad got here, and i suddenly realized that the second girl was also late. he made the calls and managed to dig ner up: she had missed the bus and was getting a ride home with a friend (whew! two in one day just would have destroyed any sanity i had left). the oldest came in and was extremely upset, running to any of the so-called friends my kids talked to on occasion, but also not getting any luck. officers searched the house, twice, to make sure she hadn't snuck in and was hiding.

then the police helicopter went up and they were calling her name over and over as they flew over the neighborhood. turns out my girl had told the mother of a friend, the ONE friend we had no address or location for other than a vague "a block or two that way" or phone number for, that she had permission to go visit with her friend over at their house (NOT!). this woman didn't ask her where she lived and come to ask me or get my phone number, and i didn't have hers. she heard the helicopter calling my daughter's name and came out to find out what was going on, then took the officers and dad to her house to get my daughter. she had been missing for nearly 3 1/2 hours. when she came out of the car and towards me she thought she was going to be spanked, but all i could do was hold her. i held her for an hour or more. then she went to others who were worried about her and hugged them and apologized. she became very upset when she realized how upset WE all were, and nearly cried herself when told that mama had been crying because she was missing. i doubt she will do anything like this again any time soon. she clung to me for hours later...and i was very tempted to take her into bed with me just to be sure she was here and ok.

the police did an incredible job and responded quickly. they worked very hard to find her and to keep us all calm (not that that worked too well with either me or saxy apparently, but they tried). and the response was amazing. first there were two police cars, in a half an hour two more showed up, shortly after that one left and another showed up, then two more. and ALL these officers were hunting for my girl. we may not see them too often on an everyday bases in this neighborhood, but when you call they come running. i want to thank the officers, and all police officers who come running for someone else's kid. your work is appreciated more than you know.

she's home now, and things returned to normal fairly quickly. i still have to hold onto her, and my others, every once in awhile in desperation. and they have been firmly reminded that they are to come straight home from school. yesterday almost had me ready to believe in superstition.

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