My boys were missing.

“Call emergency
Calling police boys missing.”

Those were the words Brooke texted me this afternoon. I was at the office on a work call. I quickly got off the phone and tried calling her back but she was already on the other line with 911 so it went straight to voicemail. I hopped in my truck and headed home. The next fifteen minutes felt like fifteen hours, but thankfully the boys are fine. Tucking the boys into bed tonight was just a little more precious than usual.

Today was just another day. I had left to go to the office after lunch. Soon after I left, Brooke let the boys outside to play basketball and ride their bikes and scooters in the driveway just like they have done a hundred times before. She called her Granny, put Emma Marie in her room for a nap, and then checked on the boys again before heading back to our bedroom to tidy up and look up something on the computer they were talking about.

When she went back to check on the boys all she saw was Christopher’s brand new bike he just got for his birthday at the end of the driveway, empty. It had only been ten to fifteen minutes tops, but they were nowhere to be found outside in our front or our back yards. She raced through the house flinging open doors and swatting back curtains but they weren’t in the house either.

That’s when she tried calling me but couldn’t get through because I was on the other line, so she sent me that text message. Then she called 911. While she was on the line answering their questions, she started running around our neighborhood calling out for the boys, stopping any neighbors she saw to ask if they had seen the boys. All she could remember about their clothing was that they were wearing their jackets and that Christopher was wearing his burnt orange one. Ethan might be on his scooter.

She found some neighborhood teens out playing football and they said they had seen our boys walking down the sidewalk. They were alone. That at least was a sign they hadn’t been abducted. The teens set out to try to help find the boys. At some point in this she was disconnected from 911 and called me back, understandably in an absolute panic. I told her I was almost home and she relayed through me, as best she could, about a 15 second summary of what had happened. I told her to call 911 back.

My mind was racing. I was trying to think of where they could have possibly gone. I was having a hard time convincing myself that everything was OK. It just is not like the boys to up and leave our front yard on their own. They never have before and, if you have spent much time around Ethan especially, you know that he is a very anxious kid and he is a rule follower. He won’t cross a street without a parent holding his hand. And, our yard and our neighborhood are really small. There are not a lot of places to hide. It could not be that Brooke just didn’t see them. In the midst of thinking through all of this, I was doing two things: praying to God, “please keep them safe, help us find them, bring them back home,” over and over again, and scanning cars (and the side of the road) that I passed for any sign of the boys. When I made it to the house, the first thing I saw was Christopher’s bike still sitting at the end of the driveway.

Brooke was still on the phone with 911 and talking with neighbors. Some more neighbors started to help her look for them. I quickly went into the house and checked on Emma, who was playing quietly in her room. I closed the door and came back out to the driveway to see Brooke. She said the 911 dispatcher was telling her she needed to stay at the house in case they came back there, so I got back in my truck to go look for them. I had no idea where to go. As I backed out of the driveway, I looked at Brooke, trying to tell her with my eyes that everything was going to be OK.

I circled the neighborhood. Nothing. As I was about to exit onto Hartsville Pike, Brooke called me again. She said the 911 dispatcher had told her to have me meet the police at the veterinarian’s office probably less than a quarter of a mile from the entrance to our neighborhood. I turned that way and this time, before hanging up, I told her it was going to be OK, that we were going to find the boys.

As I arrived where I had been told to go, I saw two police cars with their blue lights going on the side of the road with a woman who was pulled over with her car. My mind still racing, I had three distinct thoughts running through my mind: (1) they had just happened to pull over some woman so close to our house, is that why I was meeting them here? (2) Did she have the boys with her? Had she abducted them only to get pulled over? No, that doesn’t make sense… (3) Did she hit one of them?

I parked my truck on the opposite side of the road. The woman got in her car and left. The police officer signaled for me to come over to them. As I approached them, with an incredible sense of relief, I saw Ethan and Christopher sitting in the back seat of the police car. They both slid out of the car and came to give me big hugs. Christopher showed me a big stick he had found along the way. Ethan was wearing his bicycle helmet and had his scooter. I immediately pulled out my phone to call Brooke to tell her the kids were safe. At that point, she was hysterical and I had to say it several times. Each time, it seemed to sink in and settle her down just a little bit. I finally had to go so that I could answer some more of the police officer’s questions for his report and get the boys loaded up in my truck. I drove them home, got them out, and Brooke was waiting there to give them a great big, long, tearful hug.

The best we can tell after piecing everything together is that at some point during those ten to fifteen minutes Brooke was inside on the phone Christopher got angry with Ethan about something and started to run away from him. Ethan, for reasons that will probably forever remain a mystery, decided the best way to protect his brother was to follow after him rather than come inside to tell his mother. At some point, they turned it into a game. Christopher was leading the way, pretending he was on his way to a friend’s house to play. Ethan followed behind on his scooter. They made their way out of the neighborhood and started going down Hartsville Pike. That’s when a woman we may never get a chance to thank saw them, pulled over, and asked them where they were going. Ethan told her they were lost. She called the police, probably around the same time Brooke was calling the police to report that they were missing. It took 14 minutes from the time Brooke called 911 until the time they were back home in her arms.

It could have been so much worse. And, at the end of the day, it really wasn’t a big deal. But, for fifteen minutes, it was sheer panic. It is incredible to see just how quickly everything can change. And, today, we are thankful for helpful neighbors and the Gallatin Police Department. Most of all, we are thankful that God was watching over our family today and brought our boys back to us safely. Tonight, we were able to watch a movie with all of our children and tuck them into their beds. In a week, we will get to see them wake up on Christmas morning. For fifteen minutes this afternoon, I wasn’t so sure. For that, I am grateful.