How the school lost Aidan…and the most terrifying hour of my life.

Some of you have seen my posting on Facebook about how Aidan was lost on Thursday so I thought perhaps I should update the blog with some info for both my readers as well as for me to remember this day in our experience that is Barcelona.  Thursday was a regular day like any other here.  You know, if you can call them regular days.  But what I mean is the day was pretty non-eventful.  Liam and I went for a stroll, I did some work, practiced some Spanish, caught up with my mom on the phone.  Just a typical day.  That is…til I went to pick up Aidan from the bus stop.
Now that I have this google maps thing down, let me show you where the bus stop is in proximity to our apartment.  It’s not that far – maybe a 5-7 minute walk.

https://www.google.com/maps/dir/Carrer+de+Ventall%C3%B3,+12/41.40426,2.16514/@41.405805,2.166345,17z/data=!4m10!4m9!1m5!1m1!1s0x12a4a2c717d1c593:0xebafb845f29da852!2m2!1d2.166235!2d41.407358!1m1!4e1!3e2?hl=en

I always try to arrive between 5 and 10 minutes early for the bus.  You  never know if city traffic was easier on one day more than another.  Aidan’s bus comes at 4:50 and I’d say 7 out of 10 times it is on time.  The latest I’ve ever seen it come is 5:00.

So it was a surprise to me on Thursday afternoon to look at my 5:10 and realize that the bus is actually 20 minutes late.  I emailed Josh to let him know and so that he would know I was concerned.  I wasn’t in a panic but a little worried about it being so late.  The first thought that went thru my head was that I had emailed Debora who is in charge of the bus earlier in the day to state that Aidan would not be riding on the bus on Monday afternoon since I had to be at the school for a meeting.  Is it possible she might have mixed up the days?  So now I’m wondering, did he stay at school because they told him I’m coming to get him?  I don’t have my wallet with me since I’m just running to the bus stop so if I have to get him I’m going to have to detour back home.

A few more minutes go by.  I make a call to my 14 year old babysitter who goes to the school but does not ride the bus (but used to ride it).  I asked her if almost 30 minutes late was the norm.  She said, no it is not.  Ok, so now I’m very concerned.

I called the school – knowing that my contact for the bus has left for the day, so just hoping that I can find someone else to help me.  I just need to know, is he at the school or is he on the bus and if he’s on the bus, why is he not to me yet?  The woman that answers was not very helpful – she said that there really wasn’t anyone there and she didn’t really know how she could help me.  Ummmm… you can go look at the elementary school (the school is Nursery thru grade 12 and the elementary has it’s own building) and tell me if he’s there.  There are 500 students in the entire school, the campus is not that big.  Our elementary school at home is bigger than the entire campus for this school so it’s not hard to look or make a call.  She took my number and said if she heard something she’d call me.  I find that hard to believe.

So I wait another 10 minutes, send Josh another email.  Nothing.  Just nothing.  I’ve called Cristy to see what I should do because now, now the panic is setting in.  I CAN’T FIND MY CHILD!  And I can’t find someone who can help me.  She said if he wasn’t there shortly to call her and she will come stand with Liam at the stop in case Aidan shows and I can take a cab to go to the school to look.  I call the school again.  Same woman answers.  I tell her that I still have not seen my son and that I am VERY concerned.  He’s now close 45 minutes late.  This woman had the absolute gall, the nerve to tell me that she was with a family (she was an admissions person) and she would contact the bus in a little bit?  I’m sorry did you just say that you would contact them in a little bit????  Are you fucking kidding me?????  No, I’m sorry… you need to call them NOW!!!!  And you need to call me back immediately with a result of where my child is.  And I still don’t know – is it possible he’s on campus because I have yet to get an answer to that one either.

By now, I’m not just in a panic but absolute terror.  I can’t get a hold of anyone with intelligence at the school, I can’t get a hold of Josh whom I’ve been emailing and calling (he was in a meeting and there was no one at the reception desk to go get him and his cell didn’t work in the building).  I can’t get a hold of the bus either.  Where is Aidan?  Where is my son??  Is he ok?  Is he scared that he can’t find me?  Because I’m scared that I can’t find him.  What’s going thru his mind right now?  I just don’t know what to do.  I want to remind you that I’m still at the bus stop at this time.  I’ve been standing here for an hour now – because I was 10 minutes early to the stop and we’re now about 45-50 minutes late.

Finally I get a call from Jane who is probably the person I know best at the school.  And it was her extention that I actually kept trying to reach but couldn’t get thru to for some reason.  Jane has gotten a hold of the bus and Aidan is on it – thank god!!!  Ok, so he’s safe.  Big sigh of relief.  Ok, so tell me what has happened and when will he be here because as far as I’m concerned we are not home safe until he is in my arms.

What Jane told me just pissed me off.  It wasn’t her that pissed me off but what she said.  Apparently the bus driver, who was a sub (as was the chaparone on the bus – the 3 buses for the school have chaparones because they cover grades Nursery thru 12th grade) didn’t know about Aidan’s stop and neither did Aidan (hello, he’s 5 and has lived here for 2 years and oh the driver speaks Spanish and to my knowledge, Aidan does not).  And so the driver didn’t know where to drop him.  Thank goodness Jane had gotten a hold of them because what were they going to do with him at the end of the road so to speak?  I know they wouldn’t have just left him somewhere, but where would they have taken him?  I’m now at a point of livid that I haven’t experience in quite some time.

Josh just happens to call at this point and a torrent of words and tears come out.  I’m swearing and yelling in the middle of the sidewalk and absolutely freaking out.  And by the way, still no Aidan.  Though at least I know he’s on the bus.  Finally after 15 more minutes of waiting, the bus pulls up at approximately 6PM, an hour and 10 minutes after it’s regularly scheduled stop.  Aidan gets off the bus and I embrace him like I never have before and we both start to cry…not just cry but sob.  He was terrified.  He didn’t know what was going on.  He told me that he noticed that they missed his stop (the bus never drove by me) and he told an older kid who spoke to the chaparone about it.  I’m so proud of him for doing that!!  So very proud that he realized something was wrong and took charge as best that a 5 year old can.

The driver and the chaparone both got off the bus and in their broken English apologized.  Honestly it turns out it was not their personal fault – but that of the school and the bus company.  This was a sub driver following his instructions.  And those instructions he showed me, did not have Aidan’s name, his bus stop or my contact information.  So they did not know that he needed to be dropped off at this stop.  So now, I’m just plain bullshit – they didn’t know because someone hadn’t updated the list???  We’ve been at this school for 2 months now!  He’s been riding the bus for 2 months and they don’t have updated info?  Are you serious??

My goal right now is to just get Aidan home.  He’s safe, he’s shaken up, but he’s ok.  But do I let this rest?  Should I just say ok, I’ve got him back so let’s just move on?  Yeah…no!

I wrote an email to the principal of the elementary school last night and copied Debora (the bus contact at the school), Jane (who had finally helped me), Jessica (the elementary school guidance counselor) and Josh.  I told them about how unacceptable this situation was and that I expected them to clear time in their schedule to meet with me this morning.  I did not ask them to clear time – I told them.  This is my child and he was lost and the school is responsible. I’d paste my email here but honestly it’s a repetition of what’s already been said above but more concise.

Thankfully (for them) I got a response within a 1/2 hr last night that they were deeply apologetic and that of course we would have a meeting first thing today.  So this morning I pack up Liam for our long hour trek to the school (which is really less than 3 miles from here but yes an hour to get there) to the school.  I’ve got my speech all set in my mind.  Did I use it?  No, of course not.  I’m met by the head of the school when I get there which I wasn’t expecting at all.  But pleased nonetheless that they consider this situation to be that serious that they are involving him.  He was a very kind, soft spoken man who gave no excuses as to what happened, only stated how apologetic they were that this happened and that they were taking immediate measures to fix the situation so that it never ever happens again.  By the way, you should know this is the first time they have ever lost a child which is slightly reassuring except for the fact that they did actually lose mine.  Why does mine have to be the one child the school has lost?  He told me that the person that I spoke to on the phone would be reprimanded (to what degree I don’t know and I wasn’t sure of my boundries here about saying I think she should be fired) and that they were going to put in place some kind of emergency system.  Ok, that sounds good to me – at least a start.  And that after my meeting he was actually holding a larger meeting at 11 to discuss plans to put that emergency system in place and discuss the bus contract (the buses are chartered here – not big yellow town school buses of which I have seen not one in the city), etc etc.  He has promised to keep me in the loop and we will see how that goes.

My hope is that there is a happy ending to this story.  There certainly is as far as the fact that Aidan is safe and sound and hopefully no worse for wear.  However, I hope that the school does take this situation seriously and implements the plans that they told me they are discussing.  I want to spare any other parent from wondering, “where is my child” when they should be safe on the school bus.  I have put trust in to the school that from 7:50AM until 4:50PM Mon-Fri that he is in safe hands and I hope that I do not regret that.  I’m lucky, he was lost for an hour – I can’t even imagine what other parents who have truly lost their children have gone thru and my heart goes out to them.

The weekend is upon us – yea 🙂 and so hopefully some more positive blog entries because really other than this incident (though a big one!) this week was a good one, I think my first full week where I didn’t cry, I didn’t look up flights to go home and I looked forward to waking up the next day with what adventure lays ahead of me. And while we have no specific plans as a family yet for the weekend, we’re hoping to go up to Tibidabo where there is an amusement park – it opens this weekend for the season.  But we’re supposed to get rain (again) so not sure if that will come to fruition this weekend or not.  Tonight I’m venturing out to IKEA with Cristy – that will get it’s own blog entry believe me…

Thanks for reading…

Julie

2 thoughts on “How the school lost Aidan…and the most terrifying hour of my life.

  1. I still can't get over the person at the school who told you she was 'with another family'. If I was in your situation (which I can't imagine), I think my conversation with her would have gone something like that…”I'm telling you to drop whatever you are doing at this moment and address this right now, or I will show you what a bitter, evil bitch I am…. I will find you, I will haunt you and make your life hell”…. but that is me 🙂 – Sue

    Like

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