The First Time I Lost My Child by Galen Pearl

I was at the check in desk at the hotel in Stuttgart, Germany. My three year old son was standing at my knee. When the elevator door opened a few yards from the desk, James bolted and ran into the empty car. I dropped my passport, credit card, everything, as I lunged for the closing doors, watching my adventurous toddler standing alone in the elevator looking perplexed at my antics.

German elevators, or at least that German elevator, had little safety precautions. No amount of crazed mom strength could pry those doors back open. I watched the floor indicator above the door flicker ascending numbers as the elevator spirited my child away.

I jabbed at the buttons to call it back as I shouted like a banshee for security and people muttered about those rude Americans. My stomach twisted as I watched the floor indicator stop on two floors before coming back down. When it reached the lobby, however, it kept going and made one more stop at the parking garage level before returning.

The doors opened and … nothing. The car was empty. My head was exploding. I was still shrieking to an apparently deaf crowd. It was a horror movie.

Up or down. I barreled into the stairway and headed down. The door on the lower level opened into a dimly lit cluster of conference rooms with signs pointing toward the garage. No one in sight. I paused before turning and racing back up.

Then I heard a slight wail echoing in the silence. I followed the sound and there he was, no longer enjoying his escapade, looking tiny and scared. And very happy to see me.

That was 23 years ago, and even now as I write this, my breath is ragged, my heart is racing, my head is spinning, and I feel sick.

Galen Pearl blogs at

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2 Comments on “The First Time I Lost My Child by Galen Pearl”

  1. galenpearl
    August 2, 2012 at 8:57 am #

    Thanks for featuring my story!

    • August 2, 2012 at 2:45 pm #

      I hope you’ll keep submitting, Galen. There’s no maximum on the number of times you can be featured. ;-)

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