The PTA at my daughters' elemenary school hosted a "skate night" the first Tuesday of every month at the nearest skating rink. All three of us attended faithfully for about the first four or five months of the school year. After a few laps around the rink, I still "had it," could skate backwards, do the cross-legged turns....just had to watch out for little people crashing to the ground in front me. Both girls could already skate like I never could, but I still tried to give them (ignored) pointers.
There came a few times when my job duties required me to work at home on a skate night, but with both daughters chomping at the bit wanting to go to skate night, I figured since the oldest was in fifth grade and the youngest in first grade, and there was the PTA staff there supervising and watching over the unaccompanied children, I would let them attend without me. This occurred a couple of times. I always escorted them into the front office and made sure they were through the "buzzer" door before I left, and the rule was that they would wait INSIDE, not on the front porch drive-thru area, until I came inside to pick them up. That always worked, until....
One Tuesday night, when I had to work again, my oldest daughter, Cheryl, for some reason I can't remember, didn't want to go. But my youngest, Amy, had a new friend from school, Brittany, who was going that night, and it was very important to Amy that she be there too. She was quite upset that her sister didn't want to accompany her, but she still wanted to go. I very reluctantly dropped Amy off at the skating rink by herself, assuring myself she was safely inside by going and buzzing her in, reminding her of the rule about waiting inside for me to come pick her up, and giving her a quarter to call me from the payphone if she wanted to come home earlier than the designated pick-up time.
Being nervous about Amy being there by herself, and a little bit surprised that she hadn't called me to pick her up early, I left my house to pick her up a little bit earlier than the session was going to be over. I parked in the parking lot near the front door and sent Cheryl inside to get Amy. After what I thought was too long, I was starting to get out of the car and go in myself when Cheryl met me half way and said, "She's not in there." "What do you mean she's not in there?" "She's not in there."
So in we both go. By this time, most of the kids are on the front porch drive-thru area getting in cars and riding off. There were so few kids inside the building that one look around told me she wasn't there. I go to the girls restroom....not there. I go to the boys restroom....not there. Every other place, the game area, the snack area, the rink area, was out in the open.....I look around, no Amy. I grab one of the PTA moms still inside and ask if she's seen Amy. "What was she wearing?" Well, she's wearing the same thing every other little first grader was wearing at the time, hair in a side ponytail with a scrunchy, long t-shirt and leggings.
I was trying my best to keep calm, but poor Cheryl is following me, sensing my ever-increasing panick. She follows me back to the front porch area, where I look down the street and see this stripper bar and think the worst thought of my life......My daughter is gone, some pervert has taken her, and every semblance of life is over until I find her. I had the fear that my daughter had been abducted. So many terrible thoughts were going through my head I can't even describe them. All my attempts at calmness had dissipated by that time, and Cheryl at that point says, "Mom, I'm scared." I then did one of the hardest things I've ever done, I told Cheryl to wait right there....don't move....I need to go back inside, but come get me if you see her. I didn't want Cheryl out of my sight, but I needed some eyes out front, and I knew I might fall apart at any moment while I called 911. I went back inside to the front office....which I had been to earlier also....but this time I was dialing 911 and talking to the dispatcher when Cheryl threw open the door and yelled "I see her!!!" I dropped the phone and ran outside as Amy was getting out of a car. I guess she could take one look at me and know.....because she ran to me crying as soon as she saw me. And the driver of the car just drove off. I now had the relief that my daughter had not been abducted and was safely back with me. All my relief at having her back, even if it only about 20 minutes, came out in tears. All three of us had a crying group hug. The feeling I had then comes back now in the pit of my stomach and brings tears to my eyes as I write this even after all these years. (Amy's almost 21 now)
Brittany's mom had arrived early to pick up Brittany, Amy didn't want to stay without Brittany, so Amy tried to call me from the pay phone with the quarter I gave her to tell me Brittany's mom was going to bring her home. However, I did not realize the price of a phone call had gone up to 35 cents (I'm showing my age here), and a first-grader didn't realize that's why the call didn't go through. Amy just told Brittany's mom she couldn't get a hold of me, and so Brittany's mom decided to just give her a ride home to my house. I guess we passed each other en route. That's what I've figured out at least. Brittany's mom never called me. Her car driving off is the last I saw of her and Brittany.