“Give me a break, lady,” Caroline muttered under her breath, “how do I FEEL? Like my heart has been ripped out and you’re stomping on it, that’s how I feel!”
She felt so vulnerable, like a flower growing between sidewalk cracks at the mercy of hurried subway commuters’ footsteps. Which reporter could she trust her feelings to, so many hardened parasites who had lost their perspective along the way, career advancement or glory their gods? Another microphone was shoved under her chin. Husband, Jerry, at her side, and God as her witness, she began telling the story, AGAIN.
“First of all, I want to thank you all for coming and for the media support through this ordeal.”
Camera’s flicked unmercifully throughout the news release while Caroline told of yesterday’s so very normal morning as she held their 5-yr.-old daughter, Gabriella, on her lap at the park. It was one of those picture-perfect days too often taken for granted . . .
“Mommy, look! The squirrels and birdies are playing peek-a-boo!”
Caroline smiled at her child’s whimsical description; indeed, the tree’s leaf-laden branches were shaking and revealing the critters as they jumped through sky-backed holes in the foliage.
Dewdrop-studded blades of grass dampened their spread blanket, glistening at its edges under the morning sunshine. Visiting this park was a luxury, getting them out of the cramped city apartment a much-needed retreat. Then, as the sun played leapfrog with the lengthening shadows, their time was cut short by a gathering storm. Hastening to leave before a probable drenching, Caroline and Gabriella haphazardly stuffed toys and snacks and blanket into their oversized satchel. The wind picked up, whipping Gabriella’s favorite Benny Bunny off the top of the heap and behind them, unnoticed . . .
“I reassured Gabby that Bunny would be at the park in the morning,” Caroline continuing the sequence of events, “we never imagined that she would leave the apartment all alone. We think she awakened during the night and went to search for Bunny on her own.”
Caroline paused for a moment to sip some water and to smother an anguished sob.
“In hindsight, don’t you think you should have . . .?”
“How could you sleep through a little child leaving your home?
“Were you drinking?
“What did you think when the police officer brought you the bedraggled lost bunny?” the sodden stuffed rabbit having been found by a police officer two blocks away from the park.
The reporters’ questions pounded against her non-bulletproof sweater like a jackhammer. Ignoring the tasteless queries and licking her chapped lips, Caroline squared her shoulders and faced her accusers like a prisoner standing before a firing squad. Sheriff Goslin gently pulled the woman away from the podium.
“We have issued an Amber Alert and are counting on the public to come forward and assist us in finding Gabriella” . . .
I pushed the “OFF” button of our television remote control angrily, and hoped to goodness I would never need the media to help me in a crisis. I wanted to tell them off in defense of this woman who was a stranger to me, let alone if I was the victim!
Bowing my head in prayer, I pled with God for little Gabriella. I knew her mother was feeling guilty. I knew she was questioning her capability to be a mother. And, I knew that SHE knew it was necessary to have the exposure that only local and national communication coverage can do, and could not afford to antagonize the reporters, even if they deserved it. I knew all this because I am a mother and because there have been scary stray moments when I had been careless in my own watchfulness of my children when they were youngsters.
Since I only lived a mile away from the “crime” scene, I decided to put feet to my prayers and help in the search. I walked back and forth on several streets, the tall apartment houses interspersed with businesses on each side of me, including back alleys I was hoping NOT to find the child in.
Two hours later, Gabriella was found by a morning jogger, asleep under a tree two blocks away from the park, unharmed and still concerned about Benny Bunny. Media, fellow strangers, and family all rejoiced together for this miracle.
The next time I heard news reporters giving a victim a hard time, I swallowed my chagrin and remembered how they helped bring Gabriella home.
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