The biggest scare of my life came this week. I am not being over dramatic with that statement. We had a brief meeting at Cameron's school for this upcoming year. It was not a big deal at all. We did that little meeting, then the kids and I loaded into the car, and rather than drive back home, I decided to take the kids to a different elementary school to let them play on the playground equipment and burn off some energy. The playground has swings, something my son's school does not, plus a fenced in play area.
I pushed them on the swings, and it was still unusually cool. It had rained that morning, but the amount was tiny and the wood chips on the ground absorbed any sort of moisture. It did, however keep the temps livable for a good portion of the day.
We played for an hour, then it was about noon. I had a "special treat" planned. I was going to take the boys to go eat pizza. We left the little fenced in area and we made the trek to the car, which was parked on the side of the street. Casey was closest to me and Cameron was right behind his brother waiting his turn to get in.I picked Casey up to put him in the car. Casey immediately stuck his arms and legs out as far as he could to fight getting in. He screamed, kicked, and was a general terror. It took some coaxing, and I was scared I was going to drop him. Finally, he is strapped in.... On the side closest to the playground. The other side was facing the street. I was going to let Cameron crawl in on the playground side and I would strap him in so that I didn't have a child running in the street.
I turned around and noticed that Cameron was gone. I figured he made his way over to another side of the car and I would find him yanking on the door handle of the car. No biggie.
Nope. I looked back to the playground. Did he decide he wasn't ready to leave yet either? NOPE. Did he go to the other set of swings? N O P E. Oh no, Casey is in the car, and it is getting hot..... But, where is Cameron? I had been calling his name, but at this point, it was full on wails in the loudest scream I could possibly muster. I was panicking. I called his name a good 20 times before the terror hit.
CAMERON??????? C A M E R O N!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Where was he? Oh, did he go into the Gym again? My mind was racing. I was panicking, breathing heavy, heart pounding out of my chest.He did that the last time we had gone to the playground there because a summer camp program was using the school, I think the Y.....
I flung the unlocked door open and no one was in there. Oddly, no one was around AT ALL. I screamed into the gym and noticed it led into a hallway.... But, my other child, he is in the car... Do I Go back and get him out and race through the building? I pulled out my phone. At this point, I was just about to call 911.
I thought.... The hallways, maybe he got through the gym and was in the hallway. I made the decision to drive around the building, to park near the front of the school, get out and drag my other son, who was also screaming Cameron's name into the building to get more people to look as I planned on calling the police. I had my phone in hand, drove around to the other side of the building but was intently looking to see if I could find him. Last thing I wanted to happen was to have me hit him while calling the cops.
As I approach the last corner of three, I noticed it. A SUV, parked at an odd angle in the middle of the street. Then a familiar head of light brown hair. I honked my horn. Cameron! I pulled over and still gripping my phone, I Flung my door open and ran straight to him. Along side of him was a gray haired lady and an older girl, I assumed was her grand daughter. The tears came down my face. I dropped to my knees, in a dress in the middle of the street. I grabbed him close, wrapped him tightly and cried. It was an ugly cry with snot, drool, tears and a lot of weird faces.
The woman put her hand on my shoulder and told me "it's ok, you are a good mom. He is fine." We briefly talked. She told me she saw him in the street and rolled down the window to tell him to get out of the road, but when he didn't respond, she knew he had a communication issue. She got out of her SUV, her granddaughter opened up her door and was getting out to see if she could help about the time I rounded the corner. I tried to explain and apologize. I thanked her, and I think I freaked her granddaughter out with how emotional I was, but the lady knew. She was somewhat familiar, or at least appeared to be. She offered kind words, but SHE rescued my son. Who knows what would have happened had she not intervened.
What was swirling through my mind as I hopped in the car was every single story I had heard about children with Autism who had gone missing. I heard 1 story out of over 20 where the child was found alive. I instinctively knew that the sooner I could get the word out, the more people we could mobilize and the more eyes we could have searching. Although I was panicking, the only way I could function was to go into "work" mode and just do what I needed to do next.
After it was all over, I ran through the scenario in my mind to see if it was my own ignorance. Here is what I realized. I have known my son to get outside and run. When it comes to the car, he runs to it and obsesses over pulling door handles. I NEVER thought he would just take off. He got far Fast too. You would figure at age 5, he would be old enough to stand there while I loaded his brother into a car seat. But, maybe not. So, what did I learn from this? Stick both kids in the car, strap the most cooperative child into their seat, then deal with whichever one is being more difficult and hope they don't find a way to put the car in gear, lock me out, or some other danger I haven't thought of yet...