Barry Kell, Security Manager/Retired LEO Sergeant (1985-present)
Many years ago I received a call from a local elementary school where a friend of mine was the principal. She actually called into dispatch and asked for me.
I responded to the school not sure what was wrong. When I got there my friend ushered me into her office and told me she had a difficult situation with a young girl at the school. It seems the girl had recently started school there and was living with her father and stepmom. The girl was bright, well mannered and painfully shy. Whenever she was quizzed about her former school she nearly shook with fear.
At 6’5” tall and well over 200 pounds with my uniform and gear on I could be quite intimidating to many people, especially small children. Fortunately I had a way of making most kids at ease. This girl was no different. Within minutes she was opening up to me and we were having quite the conversation.
I started telling her about my family. I then casually asked about hers. She started to tell me, then suddenly she became overwrought with fear. She clammed up. I simply moved to another topic. Again, she relaxed and opened up. This went on for a couple of hours. Her talking, me listening and gently dialing in where I need to be.
We had lunch together in the office. We talked about food we liked, and food we didn’t like. We made faces at each other. She could have easily been one of my nieces. Finally I had enough information to dig deeper. I had no idea what I had just uncovered.
This poor girl was from a very rural part of Oklahoma and was now 1800 miles away from her mom and her home. Her father was a convicted child molester that had his parental rights taken away. This girl had been kidnapped by this creep the week before.
I called to Oklahoma and spoke with the only police officer in this 2 horse town. He knew the girl and her mother. I asked him why the girl hadn’t been put put into the national database as missing at risk. He stuttered and stammered a bit and told me that he considered this a domestic issue and not a crime. I was flabbergasted and a bit pissed. OK a lot pissed. I asked Officer Bubba for mom’s number. She didn’t have a phone. I asked this guy in as nice a voice I could muster to please help me connect with mom. He knew where she worked as a waitress in the next town over. I thanked him and told him I had the girl in protective custody.
I drove her back to the station and called our county’s child abduction unit. We planned for her first airplane trip ever. While waiting for the investigator to show up, I received a call from a very tearful and thankful mom. She was overjoyed that her daughter had been found safely. I said goodbye to that little girl, gave her a hug and told her how much fun she’d have on the airplane.
I received two thank you from this. The first was my own personal satisfaction knowing I had a life changing impact on this young girl. The second arrived a few days later. It was the largest fruit and flower basket I had ever seen. It was from the mom. This poor woman couldn’t afford such an extravagant gift, but she somehow pulled it together.
This memory still humbles me when I think about it. The girl was about a year or two younger than my son so that means she is pushing 30 now. I don’t think of her often but when I do, I wonder how her life is. Everytime I wondered if all those years in that profession were worth it, I can answer honestly, yes they were. She was.