I can’t find my daughter. I can’t find my daughter! I can’t find my DAUGHTER!

At some point, every parent experiences the horrible, gut-punching terror of looking around for their child only to find that he or she is nowhere to be seen. What might start out as a relatively calm search can quickly escalate into a frenetic free-for-all as fear sets in, and the mind starts concocting worst case scenarios pieced together from national news stories and true crime TV shows. I have a vivid recollection of this feeling, as it just happened to me again recently.

Last Wednesday, I lost Katie.

We were at church and the adult class, a great textual study of the Sermon on the Mount, had been dismissed. Paul went to pick up Caleb at his class, and I noticed that the older kids were streaming up from their classrooms downstairs. Usually, Katie arrives with them and comes to find us, so I wasn’t paying too much attention while I enjoyed a conversation with a friend. Eventually, Paul appeared with Caleb, my friend made her way to the door to leave, and I looked around to tell Katie that we were going home.

I didn’t see her.

I called to her, but there was no answer. I asked a few people if they had seen her, but no one had. I thrust Caleb at Paul and ran into the large auditorium, calling her name again. No one was in there. I checked the bathroom at the top of the ramp, and the one at the bottom. Empty.

By this time, the panic was setting in. My heart was palpitating, I was short of breath, and I felt a scream wanting to claw its way up out of my throat, choking me. I began sprinting through the building, out to the parking lot, into the church office, shouting “Katie! KATIE!” at the top of my lungs and breathlessly shrieking to anyone I came across, “We can’t find Katie!”

Soon several people were helping us look for her. Paul found me and, by way of calming me down, asked me to take Caleb so he could search. But I didn’t stop. Holding Caleb firmly by the hand, I dragged him up and down the building, continuing my frenzied exploration.

Finally, Paul saw Mason and Isaac, two of Katie’s friends, straggling up from downstairs. He stopped them to ask them if they knew where Katie was. “Yeah,” said Mason, pointing. “She’s still back there, in the classroom.”

Paul ran down and found her exactly where we had dropped her off. In her classroom. The class activity had just taken a bit longer than expected, and the teacher had let them out a little late. Paul called to me that he’d found her, and in seconds I was there. Charging into the room, I saw immediately that she was all right, that everything was well, and that all my panic had been for nothing. Then I burst into tears.


Sure, I felt silly. But when someone you love is lost, a lot of things suddenly don’t matter. You don’t care how crazy you sound as you run around, waving your arms and screaming her name. You don’t worry about what people think of you as you frantically yell for help, doing whatever it takes to pull her back into the circle of safety. Priorities shift like tectonic plates, and what was important five minutes ago is swallowed up in the clamorous urgency of finding the lost one and bringing her home.

But, oh, the relief of holding that one safely in your arms again!

Feeling silly is a small price to pay.


14 responses »

  1. I, too, get that feeling when my kids are out of sight. A few seconds away from me in Costco will send me into a complete panic.

  2. My heart leapt for you during the retelling of this story!!

    I know what it is to lose sight of a child for even a nano-second.

    Ugh, just the thought makes me need to stop and breathe a bit.

  3. Your story reminded me of when Mary and Joseph lost Jesus… and found him right there, still in his “Sunday School” class. (Wednesday school? Saturday school?)

    I can’t even imagine the fear you felt. Glad you ended up feelign silly, instead of the alternative.

  4. I think it is a rite of passage for every little girl to get lost at church.

    And for every mother, now that I think about it.

    For me, it was falling asleep on a middle pew and waking to the sound of my brother’s shout.

    I commented on your comment on my blog by the way. Blogging is pretty awkward for back and forth conversation. But, as best friends, I suppose we’ll just have to get over that.

  5. You kind of freaked me out just reading about it; that panic was palpable. I’ve seen many a mother launch into search mode, heedless of any other thought. You are in good company and, frankly, it just means you’re a mighty fine mama. 🙂

  6. Oh. My. Goodness. I’m glad that you found her safe and sound, and I don’t think that need feel silly about your response to her going missing. You did the right thing, and will again if necessary– heaven forbid.

  7. I agree…. feeling silly is a small price to pay. Thank God she was okay. This is another example of how effective your voice is in your own writing. Powerful.

  8. Great post, Katrina. My eyes welled up with tears reading this, knowing that panicky feeling that comes when your child is out of sight and nowhere to be found. I’ll bet you gave her extra hugs and kisses when you tucked her in that night. 🙂

  9. When I was a little girl, I was lost from my Mom in the middle of the clothes rack. I remember hearing her, but enjoying rustling through the clothes. When she finally found me, she was too happy to scold me. I still remember how panicked she was…

  10. oooh I felt the chills just reading this, it is all too true. I lost Jacob a week or so ago (in our neighborhood) and was fit to be tied when I finally found him. He will not soon forget how scared I was, and he understands that comes from the intensity with which I love him.

    Sooo glad all was well.

  11. So glad you found her…and that she was lost in the church and not in a crowded store! God was there and watching over her 🙂

    I have very vivid memories of being lost in the local mall when I was around 6 or 7. Back in the day, there was a huge playground/slide/maze thingy right in the center and I begged & begged for my mom to just let me play. She relented, but made me promise to stay put until she returned…you can tell this happened a long time ago! Anyway, after playing for what seemed like hours, I got bored and decided to go find her. I headed straight to the store she went to and tried to look for her without getting caught – I knew I’d be in a huge amount of trouble if she saw me in there. But, when I didn’t find her, I headed back to the playground, only to get totally turned around and lost. I must have walked around for 45 minutes before a security guard finally found me and took me to the mall office. Shortly thereafter, my mom appeared with tears in her eyes – I was happily licking an ice cream cone 🙂 I still got in trouble for leaving the playground, but the ice cream made it all worth it! My mom & I would talk about that for years afterward – remembering hearing her name over the big mall intercom system and the relief she said she felt as she ran to my rescue.

    Thankfully, I haven’t experienced that yet, and I hope I never do!!

  12. i’m a very paranoid person … and i love watching without a trace as well as law and order …. not a good combination … earlier today at the mall i told my nanny to go in wiht my baby and i would just be getting something … when i got back they weren’t there … thoughts of my baby being kidnapped immediately went into my head …

    so no, you’re definitely not crazy …

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