I’ll Bet You All Never Knew I’m A Hero. No Really–The Police Officer Said So.

So yesterday I got an overwhelming urge to go outside and run as fast as I could down the street to the end of the block.

You ever get that sort of urge?  No?

Well, I do.  Usually it’s after watching a Doctor Who episode where they have to outrun a lumbering Dalek or plodding Cyberman.

I don’t usually act on it,but this time I thought, “What the heck.  I’m gonna go run.”

So, I said, “Boys, let’s go run!” and intellectual-type Boy10 groaned and stayed inside, but physical-type Boy7 danced about getting his shoes on.  I got my running shoes on, too, and off we went.

But as soon as I started running, I remembered the last time I ran as fast as I could down a street.  Or, more accurately, up a street.

It was 17 years ago.  I was 22 years old and it ended badly.  Well, badly for me.  But great for Diane and her mother.

I’ll tell you the story:

I was 22 years old.  Married.  No kids.  Living in an adorable apartment on the second floor of a house in Arbutus, a quiet suburb of Baltimore.

Darling Husband and I were having a yard sale on a lazy Saturday morning.  It was about 7:00 and we were just starting to set up.

The air was cool, the sun was bright, the birds were chirping, when from up the street, we heard a thin wail wafting to us on the slight breeze.


It got closer.

Coming into view was a woman.  She was booking it down the street.  Her hair was a mess, she was in her pajamas, her eyes were wild, and her head was swiveling all around.

Is she insane?  Is she dangerous?  She was getting closer and closer and she was not slowing down.  Pound, pound, pound.  Closer, closer.

I tensed up and was ready to dash indoors if she proved to be violent.  Darling Husband just watched her approach.  She came to a screeching halt in front of us and said breathlessly, “Did you see my little girl?  Did you see my little girl and a big black dog?”

Apparently, her three year old little girl woke up while the rest of the family was asleep and let herself out of the house.  The dog went with her.

The little girl’s name was Diane.

Now, I didn’t have kids back then and didn’t want kids back then, and had no clue of the sort of vomit-inducing panicky terror a person can feel when they wake up to find that their child is gone.  Simply gone.  I didn’t understand it until 7 years later when Boy10 was born.  I remember holding him in the hospital and realizing that I would willingly die any death if it would protect my baby.  Even if I was shattered into a billion pieces and all that was left of me was one eyeball, then I’d roll my linty eyeball between my baby and the danger and protect him with my fierce glare.

Anyone with kids, and a very large number of you without them, know exactly what I’m talking about.

Back to the story:

When we let the mother know that we hadn’t seen Diane or the dog, she let out a horrible gasping sound and ran back up the street the way she came. “Diiiiiiiaaaaaaane!”

Darling Husband didn’t say a word.  He put down the trinket he was holding and headed across the street to the wooded area where there was a little jungle gym and a swing and started searching.

I headed the other way–down, down, down the street, walking somewhat slowly, staring carefully into all the back yards especially ones with children’s toys in them.  I turned a corner.

And was presented with the next street, which was on a steep hill.  A really-really steep hill.  A gigantic, enormous, really-really steep hill that would make any hill in Pittsburgh or San Francisco proud.

At the tippy top of the hill, right in the middle of the road, was a tiny glimpse of a little blonde head, just disappearing over the crest of the hill.


If I wasn’t fast, she could disappear into any number of back yards, or down a side street, or get hit by a car, walking in the middle of the road like that.

And even though I didn’t yet know about the vomit-inducing panicky terror of a lost child, and even though I didn’t particularly like children at that time (sorry, I didn’t–I’ve grown up since then), I knew that I needed to get to her immediately before she was harmed.

So, I took off.

I took off from a sedate walk into a full blown running-like-someone’s-life-depended-on-it run, up the steepest hill in Arbutus.

It was the fastest I’ve ever run in my life, and I could feel the muscles in my legs ripping apart.  I hadn’t run since high school and had spent the last 6 years stuck working in an office.  I never exercised, figuring my youth made it so I magically didn’t have to worry about keeping fit.

I made it to the top with my heart painfully pounding and feeling nauseated from lack of breath.

But there was Diane and the big black dog.

I worried that the big black dog wouldn’t let me approach the child, but as I said, “Are you Dianne?” the dog just wagged its tail and wandered off.   I scooped up Diane and started heading down the hill as fast as I could go.  I’m pretty sure that’s the first time I ever held a child. And dang it, if she wasn’t heavy!

And she peed all over me.

I made it to the bottom of the hill and rounded the corner, sort of wondering how I’d make it back up the street to my house.  By then, my poor little weak leg muscles were screaming bloody murder and starting to get noodly and floppy and I was starting to stumble.

A police car drove by and the officer asked, “Is that your child?”

“No.  It’s Diane.”

The officer took Diane into the car and drove her to her mother.

I never got to see the happy reunion and always wished I had.  In fact, I never saw Diane and her mom again.  They lived waaaaay up the street and I had no idea where they were.

Instead, I staggered home, took a shower and changed clothes.  A little later, when the dog had been found and everything was back to normal, the officer stopped by the yard sale and said, “Were you the one who found Diane?”


“It’s people like you that make this job worth it.  You’re a real hero.  Thank you.”

Aw shucks.  Digging a toe into the dirt.  Blush.

But there were repercussions.  I had seriously injured my leg muscles.  The next day when I tried to walk, there were blistering, searing razor-sharp pains shooting through my legs.  I could hardly move.   It took over a week to recover.

I made two vows to myself from that incident:

Number one:  if I ever had children, put locks on the doors near the ceiling.

Number two: Never ever let myself get so out of shape again that a mad dash for someone’s life leaves me in debilitating pain for a week.

So, yesterday, when I took off at from a dead stop to a full run, I remembered Diane and the hill and I stopped running full-tilt down my street.   Instead, Boy7 and I jogged for a little bit to warm ourselves up.

Then we ran full tilt all the way home.

Today, I took the boys roller skating.  I have to admit that my legs got tired a little earlier than they usually do, but for the most part, I’m none the worse for wear from my full tilt run yesterday.

And I had so much fun running around that I think I might take up running as a hobby.  Boy7 is game, and has plans involving timers and charts.

And it’s gotta be cheaper than photography!  Anything is cheaper than photography.


13 thoughts on “I’ll Bet You All Never Knew I’m A Hero. No Really–The Police Officer Said So.

  1. Think how expensive photography would be if you had to buy film, pay for processing and wait to see your photos?
    Where is the”h” in Pittsburg?

    • Thank you G. I was trying to force myself not to mention the “h.”

      I remember coming over that morning, shortly after all the hubbub. And you telling me that story. I think my reaction was probably something like “Oh yeah? Interesting. What do you wanna do when the yard sale wraps up?” I also disliked children then. I still kinda do. But now I’d do the linty eyebrow roll for them.

    • It’s a small town. I bumped into other people I know in the afternoon.

      And Boy10’s friend realized when we got to the rink that his new pants were too big. He was afraid they’d fall down while he was skating. (This was after we’d paid.) I asked the people at the rink if they had any rope to hold up pants with, and they let us use a skate lace.

      It worked really well! They’re so nice there.

  2. This is such a wonderful story! You are really a hero. One time I left Dimitri with Angela’s husband and Bassem for two hours while we had a ladies birthday brunch. Her husband didn’t understand that you can’t leave a four year old on the porch and say “I’ll be right back” to take the car for a drive around the block to check the transmission. My son promptly took off wandering around cul de sacs and Bhavesh came back in a total panic. Bassem continued playing play station and shrugged it off until Bhavesh ripped him up and threw him out into the street to join him on a search party frenzy. And someone also like you had found him toddling down the street and called the police. I still shudder to think what could have happened. Good job!

    • Eeep! So glad they found Dimitri! Some kids stay close and some kids wander. Boy10 was a wanderer. I would have to hold his hand everywhere (and he HATED that) or he’d run away every chance he got.

  3. Great story! And cute picture of the roller skates 🙂 I used to love doing that when I was a kid. I need to get back into jogging/running too, it’s a great activity and like you say – if you wait until you need to run you won’t be in very good shape to run, practicing it makes a great difference to be in shape for it for when you need it.

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