"White male. Four years old. Wearing Blue Pants, white shirt. Lukas Loehrmann. If you have any information call 911."
The helicopter finally made it up over Vista a half hour after deputies showed up at our house to begin looking for our son, making this announcement over the entire area, making multiple passes. My heart dropped every time and tears began at each new announcement.
Every time a police car pulled up abruptly I kept looking into the back seats to see if my Lukas was sitting there, found. But he wasn't. And I worried. And worried.
This wasn't like him at all. Not for over 30 minutes. That's when I called 911. Then an hour. Then hour and a half. Then 2 hours.
Search teams including 4 police units, reserve units, and volunteer units were combing neighborhoods, the adjacent golf course, the nearby nature preserve and parks... looking unsuccessfully for my son. The neighbors were out in masses and helped knock on doors, drive through neighborhoods and the nearby shopping center. Nothing. The apartment offices shut down. The manager, Nikki, was at my apartment. She had directed all maintenance men to knock on every single apartment door. I'd been asked to text ANYone who Lukas could have gone to, even at a long shot. Now way would he ever cross the big road, or make the effort, truthfully, to walk that far on his own. Nonetheless, I texted moms of all his little friends, and those to whom we had walked to most recently, on a long shot. Church members started showing up asking how they could help, or just gave me hugs and stood there crying with me. Many more texted or called back with questions. I couldn't call/answer back. Had to keep the line free, and didn't have time to talk unless they knew where he was. I posted pics to facebook. Jared borrowed a colleague's car and came home from work after I'd texted him "911....call me", then wrote him "Lukas is missing, police are searching." He was super calm and stood with me, then went looking for Lukas with the car. More people showed up. The ward apparently sent out an email quickly asking ward members to pray and show up to help look if possible. I didn't know what more they could do than was already being done. Except knocking doors. I kept saying (and hoping) that he must be watching a tv somewhere, totally "checked-out" staring at the tube. I was told to stay by my apartment in case he showed up. That was the worst part. I know best where he'd go and I could only ask others to keep looking in those places.
I was so worried, and began to wonder if someone had indeed taken him. There had, after all, been some creep with red hair in our neighborhood some months ago that the police were following. And a month ago a drug bust just a few buildings over. Very out of the norm for our part of Vista, but nonetheless had happened. It had been 2 hours. The border is only 30 minutes away. A large barrel chested detective asked me lots of questions. As I stood by a police car, holding a cup of Chamomile tea from a kind neighbor, I asked him what the blunt reality was for my kid. It had been two hours by now. It was like I was in a TV show, holding that cup, talking to those people, with so many "extras" on set standing around, looking worried, talking, looking. Maps lay on police car trunks with circles in which officers were looking. He wanted me to walk the route Lukas took with him.
We had been washing the windows on the outside of our apartment. Lukas helped spray and I'd wipe the high parts and he'd wipe the low ones. This is his favorite job, he'd say. We couldn't quite get the highest part on one side of the house because of a slope, and he was a bit upset that he wasn't allowed to stand on the stool which was perched all wonky on a slope as I balanced to get the nasty gunk off, now that the maintenance guys had removed the screens for me. He was going to get a stick for us to put paper towels on to wipe higher. He walked towards Jacobs house. Meanwhile, a sweet neighbor had come by, telling me about her possibility of a job nearby and we talked about her divorce and how the kids are handling the divided time. Lukas didn't come right back, but I'd seen him head to Jacob's and was going to go pick him up. The neighbor left on her run, and I walked farther down the path to get him. I called him. He didn't answer. He wasn't at Jacob's. The next door neighbor to him said Lukas had been by 20 mins ago. I called Jacobs mom, worried. She said they weren't there. They were still on their way back from Arizona. I looked around the paths where he walks and looks for lizards, etc. Nothing. A neighbor saw me, and parked her car and went looking. She knocked on all his friends' doors as I waited with the newly arrived police. His other friends all go to preschool or elem. school and weren't usually even home at 8 in the morning. His friend Damian (who looks a lot like Lukas and was stopped multiple times, poor kid), and his Dad were even out looking, so not there. Lukas has lots of friends around. Even the trash man knows what my kid looks like because Lukas waves at him so often from our patio. The maintenance guys and neighbors all see us outside constantly, playing with friends or riding bikes. Nobody could find him.
Then all of a sudden, at Caesar's house, Lukas is suddenly on the patio looking over. Someone knocked there for probably the 3rd or 4th time. And there is by messy-haired boy, completely oblivious to everything going on. I ran to the door of the apartment and just hugged my little boy sobbing. I thought he'd been taken and I'd never see him again. I heard clapping and cheering. I asked him if he'd heard the knocks or the helicopter. He said no. Of course not. He'd been sucked into the TV, watching Mickey Mouse. (Down with t.v. AND disney. Ha! j/k) And then the African American woman and man detectives directed us back to our house to talk. Lukas giggled with nervous embarrassment. There were over 100 people outside looking at him. Grateful that it ended well.
Back home, we hugged all these people who came from church to support us: Basso, Hall, Rossel, Blair. Also there had been Farnsworth, Dilley, Jackson, Millard, Whetten, Tanner, Bell, Presely, and more. A shout out to Jared's mom who also posted Lukas picture to facebook and asked for prayers on his behalf. She told me later that Valerie kept calling to get updates, and everyone kept checking facebook status for new news. All praying and hoping. I posted "Found. He is found" once we got him so people would stop worrying. Hopefully. So between the neighborhood, our ward and Jared's family, we were covered.
Jared read Lukas his naptime stories as I sat by them, heart still pounding and still crying. Jared left to go back to work and I put the little man to bed, staying right by him til he fell asleep. Then I went and lay down for awhile too. My nerves were totally shot. When he woke up, we had snack at his little table and I asked him what happened and here's the basic gist of it: When Jacob wasn't home, he went to Damian's and when he wasn't there he went to Caesar's. Caesar wasn't there, but his 2 year old sister Jasmin answered the door and let him in. I said, and you went in? (He knows he's never supposed to go in someone's house without me, or clearing it first). And he said all thoughtfully, "Ja, ich dachte, ich werde reingehen, und ich bin reingegangen" He watched TV in the back bedroom. IN THE SAME ROOM where the dad was SLEEPING! To his credit the man works nights as a security guard (ironic huh?) and didn't even know what his daughter had done. But Lukas said he woke up and saw Lukas, smiled, then got up, and went in and out a few times. BUT SAID NOTHING to my kid.
Now, I know my kid never should have gone to another house after the first friend wasn't home, and he never should have gone into a house, and I really should have followed him right away instead of trusting him to go to the friend's house and back while I was out there. But when you wake up and see a kid who isn't yours in your house, wouldn't you send them out??? Or at least talk to them, and be sure it's okay with the parent? In all this I remind myself that Lukas is 4. Only 4. Doesn't get him off the hook. Ohhhh, he got a talking to, but this man who is an adult and holds responsibility not only for his little girl who let my son in, but didn't really watch them 'as an adult'... not gonna lie, I was more than frustrated about that.
Having said all that, I am not really mad. I am just glad he is home. Was was found. He is safe. He is home. He is happy. Nobody hurt him. And he was clueless to the disaster happening while he watched tv in a neighbor's house for two and a half long hours. Time meant nothing to him. Only to all of us looking, and thinking of the worst as the minutes ticked by.
When they asked the dad if he heard the helicopter, etc.. he said, "Yeah, but I didn't think anything of it" because he obviously didn't listed to the description of the kid sitting right in his apartment. Sad, huh?
We hunkered down the rest of the day, and watched Kung Fu Panda at Jared's school that night. Lukas was ever so ready to help with anything, feeling guilty about the whole thing. I could tell he was feeling pretty badly about what happened, and asked him if that's why he was volunteering to do so many extra things to help. He said yes and I told him I forgive him, and to never ever ever go in anyone's house again. It was a rough day. At one point he asked innocently, Mama, can you please not cry anymore? Ahhhh, rough day.
The next morning, we brought the maintenance guys a plate of cookies and a picture that Lukas drew of them looking for him, and told everyone thank you for helping.
And... I stop by Caesar's house to talk to the dad, just to be clear that I have his number and he has mine, and that if ever a kid is in his house when he wakes up to send them out. And guess what... I hear his daughter Jasmine playing. And he never answered the door.
He was probably sleeping. ARHGHH!!