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June 17, 2008

Afraid in the Dark

MoxieSaturday night I checked my caller i.d. only to realize that I had missed a phone call from my mother. She had called a little past 10:30 and I was immediately a bit alarmed because she never calls me that late. Never. I called her back and she asked if I had heard from Gizelle*, my 16-year-old cousin. I told her I had spoken to Gizelle earlier that day, but my mother said, "No, have you spoken to her tonight? She got clocked out from her job at 8:40 and she hasn't gotten home yet."

Fear. That was the first thing that struck in me. Two hours had passed since Gizelle had gotten off from her summer job at Six Flags in Largo, Maryland and she hadn't been heard from? If you're at all familiar with this area then you know that the amusement park is located on a part of Central Avenue that is lined with trees and isn't well lit at night. This is where Gizelle usually catches a Metro bus to the subway station and then heads home.

I called my aunt's cell phone to find out what was going on and Gizelle's younger sister Nina answered the phone. "Have you heard from Gizelle yet?"

"No," Nina responded. "She got off work at 8:40 and it usually takes her bus two hours to get to the Metro station, but she's not here yet."

And before you think to ask, no, Gizelle doesn't have a cell phone. And I haven't a clue as to why taking the bus takes two hours to get from Six Flags to the Metro station when it's like a 15 minute drive in a car. I guess that's public transportation for you.

Anyway, I called my aunt's house  continuously hoping that Gizelle would answer the phone while my aunt, cousin Nina and one of her friends sat at the Metro station waiting for Gizelle's bus to arrive. I hoped that I'd hear her voice on the other line, but all I kept getting was their voicemail.

But see, this is where I had to shake off my fear and grab onto my faith. You know, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." So with my faith in my heart, I said a prayer. I had been praying about my family and finances and all this other stuff in my life recently and to be honest all of that seemed so small compared to what my family was dealing with now - a missing child.

My husband asked if I thought Gizelle had possibly gone out after work. Nope, not at all. She goes to the movies and the mall with her friends from time-to-time like any other girl in her teens, but just hanging out after work without telling anyone? Nope, not really her thing. I knew that wasn't it. Besides, I was pretty sure that she was still wearing her Six Flags uniform and really, what stylish teenage girl wants to be hanging out in a work uniform?

But where could she be? I sat just staring at the television screen with all kinds of thoughts running through my mind. Anxious and not being able to wait for Nina to call me back with updated news, I rang her once again and asked if she knew of any people that Gizelle usually rode the bus with after work. She didn't. But what she did tell me was they had learned that the last Metro bus had made its stop around 8:10 pm. Gizelle had missed the bus by 30 minutes.

It just didn't make sense that she was nowhere to be found though. If she had gotten a ride with a friend, she would've been home. My aunt's house is 20 minutes from Six Flags - tops. It was around 11:30 when my aunt decided to ride towards the park to look for Gizelle. I couldn't stop looking at the clock and watching the time grow later and later and waiting for someone to call me and tell me something good.

At about quarter after 12 my phone rang and it was my mother. She said she had been talking to my aunt who had just called the police to report Gizelle missing when Nina and her friend car spotted Gizelle walking on the side of the pitch black road. The girls yelled, "There she is!!! There she is!!" after spotting Gizelle's khaki pants. She had been waiting at the bus stop for quite some time and had decided to walk back to the park not knowing what else to do when they found her. Without a cell phone and being all alone in the dark rain...she was in tears, terrified and quite shaken up.

It's truly a blessing that Gizelle was safe and on her way back home that night. So many terrible things happen to children and they never come home. This story could've gone a totally different way for a young girl walking along a dark road at midnight by herself. But it didn't and I can't help but to believe that it's because of that mustard seed of faith that everyone in my family carries with them every day.

By the way, I took a little time out today to send Six Flags an email and I suggested that they offer a shuttle bus to and from the Metro station for their employees, especially for the young people who are leaving late in the evening. Although it is not the park's responsibility to see that their employees get to and from work, I believe that these young people are a great asset to Six Flags and deserve this benefit. Without these teenagers who come to work for Six Flags summer after summer after summer who would run the food stands, the games, the shops and the rides?

*Names have been changed

An original DC Metro Moms post.
You can find niki d. (happy that her little cousin is safe at home) at mama's got moxie.


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