In this creative piece, Jackie brings to life the hundreds of escapes – and resulting searches – that have become an ever-present part of her carer journey.
Adrian went downstairs to change Sara’s nappy. Chloe had fallen asleep, and Sara was gone. The front door, which she could not reach, was ajar. We frantically searched the house, and Adrian rode around the neighbourhood. But nothing. The 41-degree heat, 1.5-meter rock walls and recent snake sightings led to panic and fear. The officer on the phone said, ‘I need you to calm down.’
Woohoo. Freedom. Where’s Mummy? What’s my name? The nice lady took me off the road and gave me a drink at her house.
Sara was gone before we realised that the snib on the door didn’t work. We searched in cars and on foot, but every road in Launceston ends in three choices. Six blocks away, a speech therapist with bare feet and pyjamas was holding Sara’s hand.
My cousin was crying.
A little Chloe blocked the entrance while staff and customers helped us. Adrian was in the security room. Maybe someone had taken her. I was talking to the police when I saw the lady walking towards me, holding Sara’s tiny hand. I cried as I hugged my hero stranger.
So bored. I walked past furniture, and boxes, down a ramp and to the road. No-one stopped me.
Helen came towards me, panicked, ‘No, I didn’t see her.’ There were constant PA calls, staff, parents and students searching. A teary Helen was being comforted as the principal patrolled the fence-line and staff filtered the crossings and exits.
I didn’t want to carry my bag so I hid in the old library.
From the school bus, students followed the defined path, between many staff and locked gates, to the classroom. Alone sat Sara’s abandoned school bag.
I crawled under the fence and through the big school to find home.
The phone woke us. ‘It’s Senior Constable someone from Pakenham.’ Sara was found 3km away.
I was going by myself to that boy’s house.
Sara was laughing at Netflix then … gone. It was dark and icy in the bush outside, but we were calm. I noted the time and grabbed a phone, jacket and torches as Adrian checked the shed. ‘Too early to call Chloe.’ Soon our phones beep, ‘In my room’. Sara reappeared barefoot with dirt and slugs on her t-shirt.
I thought of something really funny to do.
Hundreds of searches in many locations, 25 I can recall in vivid detail. We do handovers, checks and holiday with potential search parties. Mostly she returns now, but won’t take her phone.
I will never take my phone with me.