My Son Went Missing Yesterday. Here’s What Happened.

July 19, 2016 — 96 Comments



“I have to stop for gas and traffic’s a nightmare. Running 10 min late,” I texted my kid.

He never responded. At almost 13, he’s still disinterested in his phone. He either forgets it, or doesn’t charge it.

I was picking him up at a writing workshop he’s taking at the local community college. “Nerd Camp,” we call it. In years prior, I’ve had to sign him in and out. This summer, he’s in a class for 7-9th graders, and that’s no longer required.

2:10 pm

I arrive and he isn’t outside. Given the blistering heat, I assume he’s in the lobby.

He’s not.

I ask a woman in the main office where my kid might be. She’s wearing a hideous green sweater and is completely disinterested.  “We have nothing to do with the summer camp program,” she says, dismissively.

I’m working to evolve into a kinder, gentler, me, so I resist telling her to go fuck herself.

I walk around outside the building, calling his name. I go back inside, and search for him. Nothing. I squash down my rising panic and approach Green Sweater lady again.

“Do you have a PA system you could announce his name over?”

She apathetically suggests I look upstairs in his classroom. I can’t imagine that he would be sitting there, but I hunt all over upstairs, calling his name.

No answer.

2:30 pm

I march into Green Sweater’s office and demand that she call someone connected to the camp and HELP ME FIND MY KID, NOW. She calls the camp administration office while I continue to search the building.

Back in her office, Green Sweater is standing over the phone, on hold, overwhelmed by the voice prompts.  “Just dial 0! Just ask for a representative!” I say to her, agitated.

I call my Ex, who’s out of town. He’s MUCH calmer in these situations. “I can’t find LD,” I tell him, and burst into tears.

He urges me to stay calm, and suggests I look in the After Care room. I didn’t know there was one.  Last week, he was late to get our kid, and LD told him that if a parent is more than 10 minutes late, the teacher brings you to the After Care room.

Green Sweater tells me, “After Care? That’s in Building 5, where the camp program is located.”

If I’d had a knife I would have stabbed her. There’s a building where the camp is run? WHY DIDN’T YOU SEND ME THERE HALF AN HOUR AGO?

I drive to Building 5, certain that he’s in After Care.

He isn’t.

3:00 pm

The camp administrators are asking me questions. I’m repeating my story to different people and hyperventilating because no one knows where my child is. 

My phone rings. My Ex called the local police, and a 911 operator is calling, with my Ex patched in to the call. She’s questioning me, and asking me to please calm down, because I am SO not calm.

I can’t hear her. Too many people are talking to me at once. Plus, there’s a roaring in my ears that’s actually my blood pounding.

She tells me to ignore everyone but her, so I go into an empty room to answer her questions.
What was he wearing? I describe his clothes.
Would he have left with anyone from the class? No, they all just met a week ago.
Could he be at my home? No, how would he get there?
Could my mother have picked him up? We have no family near us, just my Ex’s sister. She’s very ill and rarely leaves the house.

All the camp administrators are involved now, and the camp director is also speaking to the police. It’s like a scene out of a movie, a very chaotic scene. The 911 operator tells me that police are checking my house, and that officers should be arriving where I am any minute.

3:30 pm

The police arrive. I overhear them questioning a woman who saw my kid leave. She says, “He got into a car with someone. He seemed confused, for sure. The car had tinted windows and was blasting music.”

I throw up all over myself. An officer brings me a waste paper basket. The 911 operator and my Ex are still on the phone and I tell my Ex, “He got into a car with someone, our child got into a car with someone” and I die inside because I know my child has been kidnapped and it’s all my fault.

I was late.

An officer is asking me the same questions the 911 operator asked. Why am I answering these questions all over again while a car is speeding away with my child? I know that every minute counts when a child has been kidnapped and I’m PISSED OFF at that fucking Green Sweater Lady.

3:45 pm

The police are questioning everyone. One person has a good description of who he left with. The description sounds just like my Ex’s sister. But why would she pick him up? She can’t even get out of the house.

4:15 pm

They’re calling and calling my Ex’s sister, but she isn’t answering her phone. My Ex has no idea why his sister would show up. The whole thing is preposterous.

Police are searching the campus. I focus on the police officer who keeps reassuring me that they will find my child.

I start doing that “Please God, please God” thing that I do when horrible things happen. I hate that I only talk to God when the shit hits the fan.

I do it anyway.

5:00 pm 

My phone rings. It’s the 911 operator. The police are at my Ex’s sisters house, and my son is there.


I just tried to write how I felt at that moment, but there are no words.


Last week, my Ex asked his sister if she would be well enough to pick up LD one day. He ended up not needing her, but she wrote the wrong day on her calendar and picked him up yesterday.

I can’t be mad at her. She was trying to help. It was one of those things. I was late. She got the day wrong. The perfect storm.


By the time I retrieved my kid and got home I was a mess. I smelled like sweat and vomit. I took a shower, got into my PJ’s and snuggled on the couch with my boy. His main concern was how upset I’d been, because that’s the kind of kid he is.

He has the hugest heart in the world. Everyone says it about him. I don’t think life would be worth living without him.


This morning when I woke up my eyes were swollen. My body felt like I jumped out of a moving car. My muscles were so tense yesterday they’re in spasms today.

I asked my kid if he would have gotten in a car with a stranger. Nope.

What if someone said I asked her to pick him up? And knew all kinds of personal details about me, and he had no way to check with me?

He hesitated. Apparently, at almost 13, he can still possibly be fooled by someone with a very convincing story.

If you had asked me a few weeks ago if someone would take the time to find out about another person – and use that information to kidnap their child – I would have said, “No way!” But these days, hateful unthinkable things seem possible.

It was a good time for me to explain to my son that under NO CIRCUMSTANCES is he to ever leave with a stranger.
Please do the same with yours.



He just came over to hug me, looked over my shoulder and said, “Don’t write that title! It’s clickbaity!”

Everything is back to normal in our house.
Or what passes for normal.

Talk to me. I’m listening. 

*A special thank you to the Middlesex NJ Police Dept for their kindness.*


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96 responses to My Son Went Missing Yesterday. Here’s What Happened.


    What a terrifying experience for you! I’m glad it all ended well, though.


    I congratulate you on the expert way you told this story. I was with you every second. I saw everything as it happened. I felt your fear and horror. That’s damned good writing.

    I’m sorry that you had to go through this but you used that experience to save lives.

    Thank you.


    Reblogged this on Art by Rob Goldstein and commented:
    This is a story that tells itself.


    I’m so sorry you had to go through that. But I’m glad your son is safe and sound..


    i’m not one to reel long winder posts, nonetheless, for some reason the title caught, my subconscious mind..

    There is nothing more terrifying to a parent than a lost child!

    i honestly grateful, to have made it to the ending were things worked out..

    Within love chris


    My heart felt hollow as I read your recount. Every parent understands the blood pounding in your ears fear. Excellent post to highlight safety.


    Omg. My body aches, my heart hurts and I am surpressing the urge to vomit so badly that I can taste the bile in the back of my throat. I feel your pain so deeply.

    When I was little, I mean pre-1st grade little … I was notorious for getting separated from my parents. The grocery store, the mall, Disneyland, you name it. Anyway, when I had my 2 kidlets, as soon as they were old enough to form full sentences I taught them everything about what to do if we get separated from each other … my full name, our phone number, our address, who was a “Safe Adult” (look for the helper in the store, police officer, fireman). And sadly, at that young age, I taught them what to do if they were taken.

    When my daughter was 4, she had to use these skills when she became separated from her grandparents in a Target store. But my biggest scare was when my son was 12.

    We were in the amusement park at the Mall of America and it was a situation where he was riding a roller-coaster again and again and again. A ride, get in line, repeat situation. After 2 rounds for me, I opted to be an observer, high-fiving as he left the ride exit and passed me to jump back in line.

    Because it was getting close to the park closing and the last shuttle back to our hotel, I decided to use the restroom before heading out. I instructed him where I was going and to wait for me right here when he was done.

    Needless to say, I returned to the exact spot and no son.

    The announcement that the park was closing was made and here I was, at 10 o’clock at night, 1900 miles away from home and thinking that my son had been taken!

    Man, oh, man. I searched. I called out. As it got emptier and emptier in there, my calls out to him seem to echo.

    He decided to catch one other roller coaster one last time, returned but by that time, I was already searching for him, back tracking to anything that he rode more than 5 times. By the time I was already frantically reporting him lost to a security guard, forcing the souvenir photo of us laughing on the log ride, in that poor guard’s face. (I never buy those things but I was sure glad I did that night); he was on the other side of the park talking to a guard.

    When we were reunited, we were both crying so hard. I couldn’t scold him because he had scared himself and I was just happy to have him in my arms.

    ((Hugs Samara))

    I feel your pain.



      Do you know it’s been a week since I’ve been able to face looking at this story to answer comments? That’s how badly this experience shook me up.

      You know exactly how I felt, having been through something similar. I don’t think there’s any worse feeling in the world. Love you. xoxoxoxoxoxo


    Sometimes being a parent sucks. Glad everyone came through unscathed 🙂 … although … Green Sweater is in for some nasty karma.


    I am speechless. I actually felt the fear while reading this. Take care.


    Oh my god, I was crying midway through your post. How scary.

    One time I quizzed my kids about getting into cars with strangers. I said things like “hey kid, how about some candy?” They said “No way.” I said: “hey, your mom said she is running late and needs me to take you to meet her at a surprise pizza party.” They said “no WAY,” totally getting into this role playing thing. Then I said “hey, I’m wondering if you can help me find my puppy?”

    They said: “PUPPY?! Okay.”

    I’m so glad LD is okay.


    I am glad to know that you have found your son. It must have been a terrifying experience to go through especially when you are a mother. I don’t think I would even be able to be at a calm state if I am in your situation. Much love. ❤


    The title is click-baity, and it worked. I’m glad that everything worked out okay. I have a 7 and 5 year old, and I am both proud and terrified of how they are quickly becoming more independent.


    Holy shit!! I was terrified right along with you. Just, holy shit!! So, so thankful things ended up ok. Not surprised you feel like you’ve been run over. A few years back, I was with a friend and our combined 3 kids at an aquarium. Her older daughter went missing. They locked the place down and after probably 15 minutes, a woman came into the aquarium with the missing girl in hand. Apparently when she lost us, she tried to get back to the car, which involved crossing a very busy street (4 lanes). The woman saw that she was too young to be alone and on a hunch, brought her into the aquarium. It was terrifying.


    (((((hugs))) my heart stopped reading this. I can not even imagine what you were going through. I feel sick to my stomach just thinking about one of my girls being kidnapped. I am so beyond relieved that your story had a happy ending. I have never talked with either of my girls leaving with someone they don’t know, I am always the one to pick them up, but now I am going to have that conversation with them.


    I can feel your fear – I’m so sorry that you had to go through that. We have a code word in our family so that even if our son is picked up by someone he doesn’t know, he has something he can use to verify if they are ok — only if they know the code word. We keep quizzing him to get ready for kindergarten in the fall. It’s so hard to let go and ride the line of making sure they are prepared for the scary stuff without freaking them out too badly…


    Just terrifying. I kinda want to stab green sweater lady.


    Oh how terrifying! Nothing is more scary than not knowing where your child is. My heart was racing for and as you told the story. Amazing the lessons and the awareness we can learn from such an experience. Thanks so much for sharing!!


    Sure, it’s a click-baity title but I read it anyway for three reasons:
    1) This is a very important subject and I felt certain there was valuable information here (and I was right).
    2) I had a feeling this would ultimately have a happy ending and I’m a sucker for those.
    3) You’re just an awesome writer and even though I don’t know you or your son personally I still feel unnerved and sweaty in spite of the happy ending.
    Something I think of again and again is that even though the chances of any harm coming to a child are statistically very small no good parent wants their child to be a statistic.
    And as a friend of mine says, “A single event can affect a child’s entire life.”
    Then he tells me his wife is pregnant for the seventh time and I say, “You do know what causes that, don’t you?”


    Phew. I knew it had to end well, but you still had me at the panic. I get it all. And I get having to be in your pajamas, just holding onto your child at the end. So great and thank God… happy ending.


    I was hyper-ventilating the whole time I read this. Glad it all worked out. Incidents like this are the hardest part about being a parent.


    Something similar happened to me when my kid was 16 and had a new driver’s license. I was driving home and saw his car wrapped around a guard rail on the highway, but he was nowhere to be found. I pulled over, saw the twisted metal of the car and barfed, gagging. Later, I found my son at the police department, where the officer had taken him to call me, as his cell phone was crushed in the crash. Longest hour of my life.


    I very much enjoy your honesty in your writing voice. You are REAL and therefore compelling to read. I recently was honored to have published a true story of a trauma I endured as a second grader in a catholic school. Your story has given me an idea to wordPress it, perhaps in two sections as it is quite long. I also was moved to my core by your piece on racism. Thank you so much and NEVER doubt yourself, you are awesome!


    Hugs! Reading this put a pit in my stomach, I felt like I was with you the entire time. So glad this had a happy ending.


    WOW Samara! I had no idea this had happened. Somehow your post got stuck in my Archive folder. I must have done that by accident… anyhoo! I am so sorry! What a frightening story! I thought my daughter was missing once when she was about 3 and I remember the panicked feeling. It wasn’t hours but minutes that I couldn’t find her but all the same, the horrible fears and thoughts go through your head. I am so glad it all ended well!! 🙂 ❤


    This is me catching up on blogs and people I care about. As I recently wrote about, it’s been piling up, and I’ve had a lot on my plate… but these people and words sustain me. You sustain me. I’m so glad I had this in my box, and saved it. I’m SO glad your beautiful boy is safe and ok… and while I know this still hasn’t entirely passed (because this happened to me when my boy was 4, and I’m still not entirely over it!), I hope your heart is beating calmly again. (( hugs, Samara ))

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