my heart looks like your heart

my heart looks like your heart

Sunday, October 28, 2012

searching for robbie wood. and finding the human spirit.

today is the anniversary of the amazing rescue of robbie wood, jr.

this time last year, thousands gathered together, hugged, and cried, rejoiced, and cried some more, when the young robbie wood was found alive after a week long exhaustive search in the woods of doswell, virginia.  robbie, an autistic 9 year old, had separated from his family on sunday, october 23, 2011.

i was part of this search, every day, going first thing in the morning and staying until i was told to leave.  it was an experience i will never be able to forget, nor would i want to, for so many reasons, on so many levels.

one of my very best friends joined me and i remember the breath escaping both of us simultaneously as we pulled into the parking lot that very first morning of the search, and we saw the tremendously long line of volunteers which had already formed.  people who stopped their own world from turning, and went instead where their hearts led them.

there were almost no words.  we understood this in this fragile moment, and we managed to mutter something to each other about human spirit.  with heavy hearts it felt as though we walked as one, to join the line.

we stood in line from early morning until afternoon, to register and receive instructions regarding the search.   i can't explain how it was that we could not be anywhere else at any moment in time on that day.

strangers hugged one another, helped one another, and came together right before our eyes.
the tension, the fear, the gratitude, the hope, was rampant.

one of the volunteers

we searched until dark and returned home with weariness, anxiety ... and tension, fear, gratitude, and hope.

the next day brought more of the same, but less time waiting and more time searching.  the people in charge were amazing and tireless.  the woods were so thick in areas that we literally could not see 3 feet away from where we were and we had to constantly call out to each other to know by sound that we were not alone, and that we were still together as a team.  there were thickets and holes and all kinds of random things and places to search in, under, behind, and through.  there were swamps and ponds and water holes that we walked through, hills and trenches that we climbed, all the while feeling for a child and looking for any clothing or evidence that he was there or had once been there.  with every step forward, around, and sideways, there was hope.  we all wanted to find robbie, in a bad way.  but at the same time, we did not want to find him "in a bad way" or (and these are difficult words) not alive.  so when i say that with every step there was hope, believe me when i say that with every step there was also fear.  at the end of the day, it was physically hard to leave.  we didn't want to go and return to the safety and warmth of our own homes, with our own families, knowing this child was still lost, temperatures were freezing, and his family was still aching.  with every return, every night fall, there was prayer, meditation, and faith.

every day was the same.

although i was tied in emotional knots and physically exhausted, i spent time awake every night watching my own children sleep, listening to them, breathing their breath, and kissing their innocent and unknowing faces.

at the end of the week, just as we were returning from a search around lunchtime, we received word that robbie had been found.  through tears and smiles and hugs and words that i cannot even remember, we managed to move toward the tents full of volunteers serving food and drinks, and we anxiously awaited more news.  hearing that robbie was not only found, but also alive and okay, was enough to bring people to their knees.  my search partner had not been able to come that morning, and he was turned away when he did arrive in the afternoon, because there were more than enough volunteers already that day which could be trained and organized before dusk.  although he had left, he turned his car around and came all the way back, to be a part of this monumental moment.  we were all in shock i think, and it would be some time before we could realize that it really was over.

for several weeks afterwards i could literally not go any number of minutes without thinking about it, talking about it, feeling it.  i was very fortunate to meet one of the deputies during the search, who was kind enough to entertain my insatiable need to discuss it, and he said to me days later, "hasn't there ever been anything that happened in your life that you could not explain?"

these words have never left me.  i am quite certain that he does not know the effect this had on me, how i treasure his personhood, and how his words have rested in my soul, just laying quietly there, but living strongly with every rise and fall of my chest.

i still think about it, i still talk about it, and i still feel it.
we all searched for robbie.  with faith, hope, and love.
and we all witnessed the human spirit.  alive.  strong.  and invincible.
my gratitude
is never-ending.

 the flag raised afterwards in celebration of robbie's rescue


  1. Your texts from the search were like a lifeline. I so wanted to be there and couldn't. Thank you for that.

  2. Thank you Terri, that meant a lot to me too <3 xoxo