It was one year ago that Madeleine McCann went missing while vacationing with her parents in Portugal. I remember watching the news in utter shock (I think when you have young children you feel a mother’s pain even more) and thinking to myself, “How could those parents have left their children 50 meters away while having dinner? What kind of parents are they?” Then I realized how hypocritical my thoughts were.
It was five years ago this past April when I left Rachel, my daughter, who was two at the time, playing in the backyard by herself when I walked into the kitchen to grab her a juice box. I was in the house no more than a couple of minutes when I returned to find that she had vanished. After screaming for her and doing a quick search around our property, I called 911. They dispatched a team of police and emergency crews in an effort to locate my missing girl. It was 25 minutes later when she was found, face down in the pond of the golf club behind our home. She was not breathing. She was blue in the face with a very cold body temperature.
With help from my neighbour and two wonderful constables from 22 Division, Rachel was revived at the scene. She was then rushed to the Hospital for Sick Children, where a team of doctors and specialists brought my little girl to a full recovery. It was determined by her body temperature that she had been in the water at least 15 minutes. After a few short days at Sick Kids, she was home again playing with her dolls and toys. No injuries were sustained, no brain damage, nothing. I had left my daughter alone for two minutes, that’s all.
Rachel survived a terrible accident. I lived through a parent’s worst nightmare that ended up being a miracle (actually, it was hypothermia that saved her, but I’d like to think God had something to do with it, too!). But not all incidents like this end up with a happy ending. The McCanns know full well that their innocent action led to the biggest mistake of their lives. They left their children in what they thought was a safe environment not too far from where they were dining. It sounds all too familiar.
Madeleine’s parents aren’t villains. They are victims. On the one-year anniversary of this little girl’s disappearance, let’s also remember her parents who have to live with their actions every single day of their lives.
I could have easily been that Mom you would have referred to as the mother who neglected her child. Instead, I’m the blessed mom with the very, very lucky little girl.
I’m grateful that Rachel has no recollection of the incident. I, on the other hand, will never forget it for as long as I live.