Friday 21 July 2017

Amanda Brunker: 'That time I lost my son in Dundrum Town Centre was horrific'

Amanda Brunker with her sons L to R: Setanta (8) and Edward (9) McLaughlin
Amanda Brunker with her sons L to R: Setanta (8) and Edward (9) McLaughlin

Amanda Brunker

Just over a week ago, five-year-old Richard Roche (pictured below) from Wexford went missing. It was a long three hours for his parents before he was found, thankfully, safe and sound.

While enjoying a day out in the People’s Park in Dun Laoghaire, he got separated from his parents and raced back to where he thought he would be found. First, he hid under his father’s van and then later snuck inside his mother’s car through a window.

Richard Roche (5) with Emer Fitzgerald, the woman who found him in the back of his parents’ car
Richard Roche (5) with Emer Fitzgerald, the woman who found him in the back of his parents’ car

It’s hard to understand how he wasn’t located sooner, considering he picked the obvious place to hole up, but in moments of panic (which I only wrote about recently), our mind’s don’t always work rationally.

Read more: Father tells of the 'gut-wrenching' moment son went missing from park

His story was rapidly shared on social media when the news of Richard’s disappearance broke and the thoughts of him being kidnapped or being washed out to sea struck fear in everyone; especially, other parents.

At some point, most of us have lost a child somewhere for a short while. Some for only a few seconds, others minutes, but even that is terrifying.

Amanda Brunker's sons L to R: Setanta (8) and Edward (9) McLaughlin
Amanda Brunker's sons L to R: Setanta (8) and Edward (9) McLaughlin

Many moons ago, when my eldest son Ed was only five, just like Richard, he decided to run off on my childminder, for the craic. I remember it like it was yesterday and it still gives me chills.

We were all up in Dundrum Shopping Centre and after we walked out of the toilets, I was holding my curly child, while my childminder was holding Ed.

Momentarily, she let go of his hand and I watched in disbelief as he raced off at speed. If he had been competing at the Community Games, he couldn’t have run as fast. Although I shouted at my childminder, who was ahead of me, to grab him, within seconds, he was lost in the crowd, and with so many possible directions he could have run, we had no clue which direction to go.

The following 15 minutes seemed like hours. I lost my voice, almost the power to stand, and I felt like I was in a horror movie.

Despite reporting Ed’s disappearance to the information desk and the staff reassuring me that my child would never be able to break security. He did. He was found in the upstairs car park outside.

Ed was also returned to me by the most unlikely hero. Having just managed to tell people my son was wearing a Spider-man T-shirt before my body started to shut down, a hardened looking man, with full-sleeve tattoos down both arms found him and brought him back to me. I was never so grateful to a stranger in my life.

For years to come, whenever we went to public places, I dressed the boys in matching outfits, so if I lost one, I could tell people I was missing a kid just like the one I was holding. I also wrote my mobile number (with large numerals) on the kids’ arms, which they hated, and bored them silly with emergency plans in case we ever got separated. Thankfully, it never happened again.

I’m not sure what I would do if one of my kids went missing now. They’re much older and (hopefully) wiser, so I wouldn’t be as panicked — but I would shout my head off for them. And just like Richard’s parents, I would post pictures on social media.

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