Tweet A couple weeks ago Avery (my 11-year old, Dotter) was invited to a sleepover. It was late but they were like a second family... "Go get what you need," I told her. I stood talking to Avery's friend and her mother while Avery grabbed her sleepover necessities: she came back holding just a toothbrush and a bible. That's the kind of girl she was. She didn't worry about clothes or pajamas... she just needed her bible.
I called her quirky. Different. But she was just Avery. I didn't write about Avery as often as I wrote about my other children... or my fiance, Matt (aka: Big V), not because I didn't want to; but because I didn't know how. Avery was special and I failed at finding the words to do her justice.
Avery wasn't late for anything. Ever. She was strict about her schedule. In fact, she was strict about everyone's schedule: she knew who needed to go where when and what they needed to bring. We joked that the perfect job for her would be secretary to the President of the United States. She was that detailed.
But on Wednesday, October 24, 2012, Avery was late.
Her older sister, whom she adored completely, had picked her up from school to drive her to gymnastics. Jadrian (aka Teen Bean) had done this every week for the past couple months. Avery loved going with her sister; hanging out with the big kids. Listening to the music loud and singing at the top of her lungs. (As her mother I had somehow stopped singing at the top of my lungs; having children and mortgages and laundry sometimes does this to a person.)
Avery had youth group at her church later Wednesday night, after gymnastics. She wouldn't have missed youth group. She just wouldn't.
And so I waited at home for their return so I could drive Avery to youth group.
Only they didn't come.
They were 10 minutes late, which happens.
And then twenty.
And I called but no one answered.
And I called again.
And I sent a text to my sister who said "that's scary; it's not like them to be late" and I got mad and told her that she wasn't supposed to say that because she's supposed to be the logical, level-headed one an I'm supposed to be the anxiety-ridden, overdramatic one.
So I called the Sheriff's Department. The non-emergency number. And I explained that I knew I sounded crazy, but really, my girls wouldn't be late. Avery wouldn't be late. Avery wouldn't miss youth group. And they would have been coming home from Whitewater and there are only two routes they would take so could they just tell me if there had been any accidents? And they took down my name and number and told me an officer would contact me.
So I called Jadrian's Dad. He had given her an iPhone and so then he could just look at the GPS and tell me where they were. Jadrian had brought a friend with her since Avery's gymnastics was 2 hours long. They are beautiful, beautiful girls: what if someone took them? And Avery was all alone at the gym? I don't know if she would ask for help from a stranger. She didn't like talking to people. She was afraid of people she didn't know. But Jadrian's Dad said the GPS was an app and it hadn't been installed.
So I called the Whitewater Police. "Can you just check to see if the car is still in the parking lot?" But they just took my name and number.
And I called Matt (Big V). He was working and hadn't heard from them. "They should have been home an hour ago," I told him. "Do you want me to go to Whitewater and try to find them?"
And then I called my sister again. She told me to go to the church and check to see if maybe Jadrian had just dropped her off there instead of bringing her home first. But I knew while I was driving there that she wouldn't be there.
I called 911.
"Look. You don't know my daughter; she would NOT have missed youth group. Something is the matter." And they asked for my name and number again. An officer would contact me. "Would you at least ask me the make and model of the car?!" I snapped.
But see, the thing is, they already knew the make and model of the car. They already knew who I was. They already knew who I was worrying over, who I was pacing the floor for, who I was sending out prayers for. They knew it the first time I called.
But there are policies and procedures and the girls didn't have IDs on them and they needed to know for certain who was sitting where in the car.
I called my Mom: "... I can't find the girls..." I choked out. She tried to reassure me: "... they were driving your car. It's registered in your name. If there was an accident they would notify you."
And at just that second the doorbell rang. "Mom, I gotta let you go."
I opened the door and saw the police officer standing there. Thank God, they're finally taking me seriously. A second officer followed him in. Then a nice looking man wearing a polo shirt. He was carrying something: a pad of paper? a clipboard? Why did they send a sketch artist? I have pictures of my children.
"Are you Bridget McCarthy?"
"Yes... please, come in."
"Are you alone?"
"Uh, yes. Well, I mean, Brody (aka Cletus) is here." I pointed to the little boy half-dressed for bed, hanging on my left leg. Gosh, he's cute.
"Is there someone you can call?" The officer looked down at Brody. Oh! I thought, they don't want to be bothered by a toddler when they ask me all these questions about the girls.
"Brody, honey... why don't you go in your bedroom and read a book. Mama will be right there, okay?"
The second officer followed him down the hall and into his room, "I can stay with him. C'mon, buddy...."
The first officer turned to me. "You have two daughters?"
"Yes, Jadrian and Avery... they were supposed to be back at 6:30..."
He looked at me. There was so much compassion in his eyes. So much.... love. "There's been an accident...."
.... and in that second I knew. I just knew....
" --- which one?" I asked.
He put his hand on my shoulder and looked straight in my eyes...
"Avery didn't make it."