On March 30 at 11:15AM I got a phone call from a number I did not recognize. I picked it up anyway, something I usually do not do. To my surprise it was someone from CERT. Community Emergency Response Team of which I am a member. In short Fort Worth CERT was being activated for a real, non-exercise situation. I said I would help out and would go to the staging area post haste.
The situation was something you see on the news frequently. A 12 year old boy had been missing since about 9:30PM the previous night. He was last seen at Farrington Field in Fort Worth where he had run in a track meet. He had not done so well, had been picked on by other kids, and apparently had simply walked away without telling anyone.
I arrived at Farrington Field and sought out the incident command center. One is always set up when things like this happen. I found our guys and got my first order: help call folks on the CERT volunteer list to get people to help out in the search for the boy. And that I did using my cell phone since it was ordered that cell phones would be used for communication by the CERT folks that day. Sitting in my car I went down the list calling person and after person. Then I got a surprise. The folks from Channel 8 started asking me questions about CERT and what it did. I explained some things to them and kept calling. To my surprise they began to roll tape of me calling several people, the video camera just outside of my car window. Then as suddenly as they appeared they left seeking content for other folks. Jim Douglas, the reporter, was very interested in CERT, he had no idea we existed and thought it was important that we were there. They were not alone, most of the major TV stations were there. Channel 5 was strangely absent I noticed. The media was all around us with cameras rolling, asking questions, and their satellite trucks parked with their little dishes on the tall masts dishes pointed upwards.
As I finished calling my share of the list we got our search orders. Somehow I got appointed a team leader en absentia, I accepted that duty of course not being a slacker. My team of seven CERT volunteers was assigned to search the Farrington Field stadium once more. Search it inside and out using the facilities manager to unlock EVERYTHING that had a lock on it. We walked over to the stadium, being filmed by Channel 8 again, and began our work. Doing search and rescue is not haphazard, there are certain things one does to plan and execute a search and we applied our training to perform the task we were ordered to do. We went around and through the stadium and of course found no trace of the kid. While the team searched I relayed status updates back to the command center and kept my team coordinated. The unofficial consensus was that the kid was not around. In fact the FWPD “Search One” dog team had lost his scent across the street at Will Rogers Colesium. But protocol states that one always searches the “last known position” of who was missing. And the stadium was that location.
We completed our search and returned to the staging area for more orders. It was about 3PM. We did not get any new tasks and we could tell there was something going with the Fort Worth Police who ran the operation and we CERT folks. We were then asked to gather in the bleachers in the field house. Officer Monty Lambert, who runs CERT, a FWPD sergeant, and a FWPD Captain then addressed us. The boy had been found. His father had him of all things. This was a bit interesting since the father had possessed the kid since the night he was lost but did not tell anyone. The father’s boss at work knew about it and had called 911 saying the dad was afraid to contact FWPD. This was on top of some “unofficial” news we had gotten from one FWPD officer that they thought the mom was not being entirely truthful about the overall situation. It seemed then there was something else involved than just a young kid getting mad and walking away from his track meet. The captain said the detectives were “sorting it all out” and that we could go home since the kid was safe and sound. Mission completed therefore.
After gathering my equipment I walked away from the field house, saying goodbye to my CERT compadres. The media crews were still there but they would not have a dramatic ending to tell about this story. In fact as I ate my dinner and drank a cold beer I watched the newscasts of two of the channels who were taping and interviewing and saw not one mention of this event. I guess with no blood, death, rape, or injury present it was not “newsworthy” enough. But so it goes. CERT’s mission is not to get publicity, it exists to help others. And that is exactly what we did that day.