My marathon girls!
There aren’t many situations quite as terrifying for parents as losing sight of their child at a public event.
Two weeks ago we had a frightening incident involving our 7-year-old daughter, Miss A, at the ING Kids Marathon in downtown Nashville. I will preface this by saying that she was fine the entire time and was technically not “lost,” but 40 minutes went by from the point my husband watched her turn the final corner toward the finish line with the other 1st grade runners to the point he finally laid eyes on her again.
The traffic going into downtown as completely backed up before the event, which started on a Friday afternoon at 5 p.m. – the heart of rush hour. It seemed, at least to us, that the inflow of participants had not been anticipated. We have come into town for Titans games and gotten to the stadium with ease. Traffic was so slow, though, that hubby and Miss A got out of the car while we were stuck on the off-ramp and ran the rest of the way so Miss A wouldn’t miss her race.
Because Miss C and I were trying to find a parking place the entire time hubby was with Miss A (finding her school’s tent, finding the starting line, finding her group, watching her start, watching her round the corner toward finish, then vanishing), I wasn’t really aware of the situation until she and I finally arrived at her school tent at 6:05. I texted hubby to let him know we’d finally parked and were at the school tent waiting for her race, which was scheduled for 6:30. He didn’t respond because he did not want me to yet know that he had not been able to locate Miss A, whose race began at 5:15 and who had been seen and photographed by a couple of her P.E. teachers crossing the finish line.
She should be waiting for him to retrieve her at the finish line, right? Wrong.
I found later that hubby had managed to get to the end of the “corral” that Miss A was supposed to come out of on time. When he got there, the kids were packed like sardines waiting for their parents to produce a matching number. There was one girl from our school that he recognized and she was at the front of the line, crying as she didn’t see her mother and there was pressure on her as other racers finished and the corral bottlenecked. When the mother finally got the girl after 25 minutes, hubby was able to ask her if she had seen Miss A. The girl had, and said that Miss A had finished AHEAD of her. That’s when he got really scared.
When we spoke on the phone again, he said “There is NO SIGN OF HER ANYWHERE, Jamie, and it’s been 30 minutes!” My heart had that sinking feeling, like a rock slowly falling to the bottom of a pool. I had to help him find her. I left Miss C, our 4th grader, with other parents at the school tent as her race was about to start, so I could help locate Miss A.
A few minutes later hubby called to say he had FINALLY spotted Miss A behind some marathon workers in the finish line area in the wrong corral. Because of the way they were situated and she was situated she had been virtually hidden. By then I was ready to have a nervous breakdown. I was so proud of her for being calm…but she had no idea that anything was wrong!
So, facts and questions remain:
- Everyone we dealt with from school during this situation was SPECTACULAR. We are so very lucky to have the excellent teachers and staff that we do at the girls’ school.
- Hubby saw dozens of first graders crying as they were waiting in the “corral.” They were packed like sardines, and parents waving numbers to claim their child were at least 12 deep. He said it was slightly organized chaos, and parents were busting through and pulling their kids out on the sides rather than wait their turn. He said it was like the floor of the Stock Exchange, but with kids. How did that happen?
- When my husband was advised to go to the medical tent, he saw no injuries…just 4 children who were “misplaced” and a line of frantic parents reporting that they could not locate their kids.
- How can you be a gate worker and have a small child right beside you who has been waiting for 40 minutes…and NOT be proactive by using your walkie talkie to see if she was reported lost or missing?
Miss A wanted to participate this year and I was all for it. The P.E. teachers at our school do a superb job of organizing our runners and keeping parents informed of the race day details. All the kids wear matching t-shirts and parent volunteers run with the kids. All kids are required by marathon organizers to have their names, grade, and school printed on their official marathon number tag pinned to their t-shirts, as well as have a parent’s cell phone number written on the back.
With that said, the logistics of having 7,000 kids and their parents in a small area, running in sequence in a short time frame, created a scenario that was one of the scariest of my life, and quite a few other parents, as well.
Have you ever lost your child at a public event? Were you at the Nashville kids marathon? What do you think could be done to improve logistics of crowd control and safety?