This afternoon Rob and I had, what I believe was probably, the *worst* 3 hours that felt like days of our lives. Rhys was missing. I will state right here, right up front, that he is fine, he never knew he was lost, he was with a dear friend, and they both did exactly what they were supposed to do.
It started yesterday afternoon. Mom, Irene, and I were planning on going "over the hill" to my sister's so that we could celebrate my nephew's birthday. So I called my dear girlfriend to see if she could pick up Rhys and then Rob would grab him after work. Late in the evening, Mom and I decided that the weather was going to be too awful to drive in safely, so we'd stay home. It was late, so I didn't call.
Next morning, early, I got a call to sub. Did the quick groggy run through in my head, remembered we were NOT heading to the Bay Area today, and said yes. Totally and completely forgot about other plans other than, I need to get showered, get the kids breakfasts and lunches, and get them out to the bus. I told Rhys and Irene that I was going to pick them up from school (previously, I'd told Rhys that our friend was going to pick him up).
I got to school. There was Irene, with her friend, by the flagpole. No Rhys. No biggie, it usually takes him a bit longer to get around the school. Nope, still no Rhys. Checked in briefly with his teacher, she saw him walk out the door with his great good friend. Okay. Well, I just need to get home before the bus does because he's going to be worried that a) Irene's not on the bus and b) that I won't be home. So off Irene and I zoomed. We got home just before the bus. I went to grab him...no Rhys. Came home, called school, spoke with Margaret, the wonderful secretary. She did an all call at school. No Rhys. Then she called transportation. No. Not on the bus. Serious panic begins to set in. Where is my child? He is my worrier. My "gotta know the plan" boy. My "hey! the busses are leaving and mama's not here, so it's time to go into the office because she's subbing and sometimes it takes a minute or two more to get here" boy. He is not the boy who goes wandering off with a friend, walking home by himself (does he even really know the way home?). I called my mom to come to my house to be with Irene (who was really really getting more and more concerned by the minute) and tried to stay calm for her. I was then on her phone, my cell (with margaret), and Irene's phone calling Rob to say that Rhys was missing. Come home. I then went to a friend's house who maybe, just maybe, if Rhys had been on the bus and realized I might not be home and Irene wasn't on the bus, he'd be with her...nope. not there. Went to another friend's house to see if somehow, just this once, Rhys went home with someone else without thinking about calling or telling me. No. Not there either. Margaret stayed on the phone with me the whole time. I then headed to school. I was met with people already combing the school and looking outside. I think Carrie met me outside where I broke down. The principal, Prim Walters, was right there too. Rhys' teacher was already in the office trying to piece together what could have happened from the moment it happened.
So much now is blurring in my head already. It felt totally surreal. This stuff doesn't HAPPEN in real life. This happens in movies. My brain was on overload and I was trying to stay calm, but as more friends and more people were coming to help, I would hug and hold and cry. So many people were there asking what they could do. I sent Carrie all the recent pictures I had on my phone of Rhys. She put it on facebook. Suddenly people who didn't know me or Rhys from anything were ready to help too. The school police came and started asking me questions. I couldn't remember which sweats he was wearing - his teacher absolutely remembered. I knew he had on his super cool sweatshirt that Mom had made for him and was pretty sure he had on a green shirt (his favorite color).
I just can't say enough about our school and friends and the school police. And I was awful. At one point, I said (and truly, it kills me that these words came out of my mouth) "When can we call the real police in?!" Ms. Walters came out and let me know that they are real police and I KNEW that - good lord, whatever possessed me to say it?! I quickly apologized, but that doesn't take it away. As another friend said, these are the people that deal with these kinds of things on a regular basis and I'd just treated them in a horrible and horrifying manner. Please, when you see those school cops around, THANK THEM for being there for the kids! There is nothing I can do to take back those words, and I feel truly awful. Meanwhile, Ken (my step-dad) arrived, Rob arrived, Cub Scout friends and Girl Scout friends came and were doing everything they could - they were driving the streets, they were calling friends, they were walking the neighborhoods. Teachers came back from their homes, or never even left school to help. There were 4 different people who thought they saw him on a bus - on their bus, on the wrong bus, getting off at the Raley's bus stop, he realized that I wouldn't be home, so he was going to go with the neighbor kids on the bus to their house.
The teachers and staff called every parent from Rhys' class, Ms. Walters talked with Rhys' best buddy in his class (bless that sweet boy) who, as we found out later, was spot on. Rhys walked out with J, then a "girl" called his name, and Rhys walked over to the "car circle." Ms. Walters had put the Connect-Ed All Call out to all parents in the school. Pictures were printed of Rhys, what he was wearing was added to it. Teachers and parents were going door to door. People were canvassing everywhere and I was attempting to keep it together and feeling totally lost in my head. I thought of other kids who might know, Margaret made more calls. Still nothing.
After way too long, I looked at my phone and thought of my friend - I said "I KNOW WHERE HE MUST BE!!!" and proceeded to call her. No one called anything off just in case I was wrong. Then, the blessed voice of my dear friend answered and told me what I'd been longing to hear - "Of course, Rhys is here! I told you I would pick him up." I explained the situation as best as I could to her and told her I'd be on my way. I told everyone and the whole office erupted in cheers. You can probably imagine how I felt (and how Rob felt) when we heard that he was safe and sound and exactly where he was supposed to be. I felt awful that I'd started this whole mess - that I didn't even know where my sweet boy was when I SHOULD have thought of that.
The school police were already on their way over to the house and they brought Rhys back to us, while we waited knowing everything was miraculously okay. I was so totally overwhelmed by the outpouring and love in our community. Carrie said it best. I was humbled. I hugged just about anyone who would let me.
When I saw Rhys, I gave him giant ginormous hugs and let him know that he had done everything right - because he had. It was my mistake - first that I didn't call last night, that I didn't remember this morning to call, and then, why didn't my brain turn on and remind me that I should absolutely call her first thing?
While Rob and I were doing that, Irene was home with Mom - both comforting one another. It is not easy to be the big sister. I just knew I needed someone here just in case somehow Rhys was late getting here to the house.
I want to thank my friends far and near who called, texted, posted on facebook, sent up prayers and thoughts. It means the world to me. More than the world. Thank you to all the staff at Spanish Springs Elementary School for zooming to action so quickly and for brainstorming different possibilities and places to look. For answering and making calls. To the police - all of them, thank you. I know that many of you were working from the wee hours of the morning and were not getting to go home tonight for quite a while. And to my dear sweet friend who did exactly what she had told me she'd do, thank you to the ends of the earth!
I know that there are similar stories that don't end up nearly so well. I send my prayers and thoughts out to those parents and the friends of those parents.
Right now, I'm happy to have my family all snuggled in.