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2004-12-24 23:25:22 (UTC)

Guardian Angel

I know there are a lot of skeptics out there who don't
believe in guardian angels but I am a firm believer in them
and have been since I was a little girl. This is a long
story, with a preamble, so you'll need to be patient.
Owen went to visit friends in Seattle for a week and went by
bus. He was due to take a late morning bus from Seattle
last night and planned on going to his apartment in
Corvallis and staying there overnight; we would come pick
him up in the morning. Owen is very bright, he's a senior
at university, but he has ADD and gets muddled and panics
easily especially if he's in a large crowd of people where
there are a lot of things going on. It becomes
overwhelming. I'm like this myself and avoid malls or any
event that has more than a few hundred people. And like
Owen, I also have a tendency to panic when I'm lost. There
is still, to this day, a town about fifteen miles from here
that I will not drive to because everytime I have I've
gotten lost and have had to stop and ask for directions.
And, also like Owen, I have trouble following directions
given to me verbally like "Go down this street until you get
to Tyler St., turn left and stay in the left lane until you
get to Juniper, it's about four blocks, then turn left there
and go three blocks, turn right at Harris and that road will
take you to the freeway entrance." I can't keep that all in
my head; if I'm lucky I'll remember the street names but
that's all. So, the story begins....
John and I had just returned from the doctor's office where
we'd gotten our flu shots. The rules were recently changed
so that people over 50 and those who live with someone who's
at high risk are now eligible to be immunized and we
qualified under both parts of the rule. The phone rang. It
was Owen's cell phone. But he should have been on the bus.
Why was he calling? We soon found out. He'd missed his
bus and for some unknown reason walked out of the bus
station and began walking and had quickly become lost. He'd
been walking for two hours when he phoned and had no idea
where he was. It was difficult for him to hear us or us him
because there was an enormous amount of noise from people
walking by and traffic. He was in downtown Seattle, two
days before Christmas, and the shoppers were out in force.
After thirty minutes we'd determined that he had no cash
with him and had about $25 left in his account. He finally
was able to give us the names of the cross street he was
on. All this time, he kept walking. We asked him to go
into a building, a store or a restaurant, so we could hear
him better but he never did. We have two phone lines so I
used one to connect to the Internet, found the address of
the Greyhound bus station and then put it and the names of
the cross-streets he'd given into Mapquest and asked for
directions. He was almost three miles from the bus station
and the directions were complex. If we'd been able to hear
each other well I could have walked him through it, one step
at a time, but it was impossible. At one point during this
call, I'd called the Greyhound office on the second line and
determined there was another bus leaving late in the
afternoon. There would be a fee for changing his ticket and
if he didn't have enough money I was told I could call the
ticket office and give them my credit card number. She gave
me the number of the ticket office at the Seattle Greyhound
station. All we had to do was get him back to the bus
station. That's when Owen's call ended abruptly.

John and I were now scared. Here was a young man who'd
lived in a small town all his life, who had attention
deficit disorder, and was panicking because he was lost in a
huge crowd of people. We decided we need to call the
police. I looked up the Seattle police department on the
Internet and called their non-emergency number and got a
recording with voice mail options. There was no way I could
call 911 in Seattle from where I was so I called 911 and
talked to the local dispatcher. I explained the problem and
they connected me with the 24-hour out of state emergency
line in Seattle. The dispatcher there took down Owen's
description and told me they were sending officers out now
to the cross-streets Owen had given us while he continued to
ask questions. He told me to call them back in an hour. We
waited. We tried to call Owen back but we got his voice
mail. This meant that his battery was not dead but we had
no idea if he knew how to access his voice mail. We
organized the phones. We kept the land line we knew Owen or
the police would call in open. I used the other line for
the Internet. We made calls using my cell phone and
Gavin's. Gavin kept trying to call Owen but never received
an answer. We realized later that because of all the traffic
and crowd noise, there was no way he could hear the phone

An hour passed and I called the police again. I was told
that officers had arrived within five minutes of my call and
had searched for him for 45 minutes to no avail. There were
thousands of people out there, I was told, and of course,
Owen was still walking. Who knew where he was now?

I tried to call Pastor Ruth but there was no answer on
either her cell phone or home phone. John decided to go
into town and put money in Owen's account. I waited and
prayed. There was nothing else I could do. At one point I
went to look at the weather forecast for Seattle. The low
that night was predicted to be four degrees.

At about 5 p.m., Owen phoned Gavin's phone. Again, he was
still walking and we had trouble hearing him. Gavin
repeated several times "Dad put $100 in your account" so
he'd know that if needed to he could stay at a motel for the
night and we'd figure things out from there but we weren't
sure he heard that. Again, Owen ended the call. It was
dark now and getting colder. A half hour later I finally
reached Pastor Ruth and told her what was going on. She
suggested that I call the Seattle police and tell them that
Owen had contacted us again and was still lost somewhere
downtown. Then she prayed. She asked God to envelope Owen
in His arms and to send down a guardian angel to protect him
and give him calmness so that he could find his way home

I again called the out-of-state emergency number and was
transferred several times, put on hold when the dispatcher
spoke to a supervisor. and finally after another twenty
minutes, was told there was nothing else they could do
unless Owen called 911. If he did that they would be able
to locate him. We'd told him that in both calls but it had
gotten lost in all the noise. When we asked what else we
could do, we were told we could file a missing person's
report with the Oregon State Police. John decided that he
would do that while I stayed at home and was just going out
the door to his office to get a recent photo of Owen, when
there was a noise from Gavin's cell phone. It was a text
message, Gavin told us. It was from Owen. It said "tell
mom Im okay looking for a motel". This meant that he'd
heard Gavin tell him he had money in his account. He'd also
found a way to communicate with us that worked! I asked
Gavin to text message "where are you?" He answered "stewart
and third". I remembered the address of the Greyhound bus
station. It was 811 Stewart. I told Gavin to tell him he
was five blocks from the bus station and to keep walking up
Stewart. Owen text-messaged a few minutes later that he was
at 7th and Stewart and didn't see the bus station. "keep
going, Owen." Gavin text-messaged. "its between 8th and 9th.
call us when you get into the building". And Owen did. It
was now almost 6:30 p.m. While this was going on I was
again on the Internet checking bus schedules. There was one
more bus that night, the last one, leaving at 8:40 p.m. to
Eugene arriving at 4 a.m.

Once he was inside a building we could hear what he was
saying. Owen had been walking continuously now for more
than six hours. We told him to go to the ticket counter,
hand them his ticket, tell them he'd missed his bus earlier
in the day and wanted the 8:40 p.m bus to Eugene. There was
a small fee which he paid with his debit card and we told
him to stay in the bus station and not to leave for any
reason. At 8:40 p.m. he text-messaged Gavin "Im on the bus.
Have 1 hour layover in Portland. Arrive Eugene 3:50 a.m."
John and I were at the Eugene bus station right after the
Greyhound bus from Seattle pulled into the terminal and as
we got out of the van, we saw Owen step off the bus.

So Owen is home. He was exhausted and hungry. Less than a
half-hour after Pastor Ruth asked God to send a guardian
angel Owen thought of using text message to communicate with
us and he was only a few blocks from where he needed to be.
I couldn't sleep while waiting for 3 a.m. when we would
leave for Eugene. So I said a rosary in thanksgiving that
Owen was safe and would soon be home. And then I said a
second rosary, for all the lost children whose parents don't
know where they are. The ones who've run away, who've been
abducted, who've just disappeared without a trace. I got a
little taste of the fear and frustration and despair that
those parents must feel yesterday and I'm grateful, so
grateful, that my lost boy is home again.