Fortunate find

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 30, 2005

Wednesday was a bad day for my family – almost.

While working on Thursday’s sports pages, I got a phone call from my mother to let me know no one had heard from my father since 7 a.m. The call came at 2 p.m.

I tried not to panic. I knew my dad was supposed to be making the trip from his home in Askewville to his sister’s home in Bracey, Virginia. He drives slower than most and it could take him longer than it would me.

Still, seven hours was pushing it to the max.

My first phone call was to my friend, Tonya, who began working immediately to help find him. Her husband, Kenny, is a sergeant with the North Carolina Highway Patrol and she is a former dispatcher.

Between them, I found out how to make a phone call to report him missing with at least most of the correct information.

My first phone call was to Bertie County Detective Sergeant Frank Timberlake. He was concerned and immediately found the person I needed to talk to – Detective Sergeant Ed Pittman.

Now, I’ve known Ed Pittman all my adult life. My first job was working for his uncle at Pittman’s Grocery in Lewiston-Woodville. I’ve known him as Ed, but never knew him as Detective Pittman.

Wednesday made me thankful that Bertie Sheriff Greg Atkins had the foresight to put him in his current assignment.

No less than half a dozen times in the six hours we were all intently searching for my dad, my cell phone rang and it was Ed Pittman on the line.

He worked hard, driving the county to see if my father’s car had broken down somewhere and calling people out at 9 p.m. to check credit card records.

To say that he went above and beyond the call of duty isn’t even touching the surface. I will be forever indebted to him for the compassion and concern he showed for my family.

In addition to Ed’s dedication, I also got a phone call from Frank asking if I had gotten everything to Ed and also asking if there was anything he could do to help. He didn’t have to do that and I’m thankful to have law enforcement in my native county that cares so much for its citizens.

My work family was equally supportive. Every one of them who knew the situation asked if they could do anything to help.

Both Cal and Jeff told me to leave immediately and do what I needed to do even as deadline was approaching. Cal even spent his time, still on deadline, to call the hospital for me and make sure my dad hadn’t been admitted.

There are a lot of Christian people here and every one of them began praying. My family prayed. My aunt’s church prayed. My church prayed.

I drove the path my father was supposed to take and the other route to get there looking for him to no avail.

The entire time I was talking to friends and family on the phone.

My friends who called, and I’m not going to call them all by name, but you know who you were, a Godsend. I couldn’t have remained as calm and focused without them.

Finally, exhausted I stopped at Tonya and Kenny’s to talk to them and be around people. I had been alone in a car, except for being on the phone, for five hours.

Kenny began to detail my next steps for me as the phone rang – first Ed Pittman checking on the situation, then friends, then family.

Finally, the call we had been waiting for. My dad was safe, although lost, near Petersburg, Virginia.

A good Samaritan had saw him stopped and decided to lend a hand in case the car had broken down. He found out dad was lost and called my aunt from his cell phone. He then waited an hour and a half with my dad until she arrived.

My dad is safe, although maybe a little shaken.

He wouldn’t have been if it hadn’t been for the Divine intervention. I am absolutely certain of that.

I am equally certain that I couldn’t have made it through those excruciating hours without Ed Pittman and the family and friends who surrounded me.

To each of them I say a heart-felt thank you.