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The Boy Who Saved My Life

The day I almost lost my life - I remember it like it was yesterday. For the most part and for many years after, I had forgotten all about it, but that changed when I became a mother.

I was no older than 7 or 8. I was wearing a dress my mother had bought me. It was navy blue in colour and covered in yellow and white flowers. It had white ruffled trim around the neck and wrists. On that day, I was with my mother, her friend and her friend’s son, who was around the same age as me, maybe a year or two older. He was my best friend. Our moms were best pals, as were our sisters, so by default he was mine. For the sake of his privacy, let’s just call him David. Hi David!

David and I were at the local shopping center, which was approximately 7km from where we lived. We lived a few blocks from each other. With our mothers by our side, we walked through the mall, store in and store out. After what felt like hours, we had arrived at our final destination. The Bay. As kids often do, we wanted to break free from the adults and with Mother’s Day quickly approaching, we somehow convinced our moms into a few minutes of freedom, you know, so we could buy them something. With a little persuasion and with a few rules (stay together, stay on the first floor and meet us back here in 20 minutes), our mothers agreed to let us go. I don’t think I was the one responsible for time, it must have been David. Either way, we didn’t break any of the rules. We did what we were told. I don’t recall what aisles we looked through but I remember soap and soap-on-a-rope, it was a big deal in the 80’s. Anyway, with still nothing to buy we continued walking through the department store. We were close to the entrance, with our mothers only meters away but still out of sight. I remember the sunlight coming through the windows, the placement of the cashier and the little remote-controlled robot that was on display. There were a number of people gathered around watching in awe as if something miraculous was happening. As children often do, we were distracted by this robotic thing and gathered with the rest of the curious folks to watch it spin in circles.

I’m not exactly sure how long we watched but I do remember what happened next. To the right of me stood a man. Tall in height and largely-built in size. He was wearing black from head to toe. Black jeans, black beaten-up sneakers and a black leather jacket zipped right up to his neck. He covered his head with a black leather flat cap and his dark curly hair stuck out of the sides. He also had on a black pair of sunglasses. He had bad skin and a dark complexion. His breathing was heavy enough that I could hear it and his full lips were clenched. I wasn’t scared though, because at that time, I didn’t notice him. It wasn’t until he tugged on my right arm. I guess I figured he had the wrong kid so I pulled away and continued to watch the robot. He proceeded and tugged again several times, this time more aggressively. I pulled myself away forcefully and slowly looked up. That’s when I saw him for the first time. I couldn’t tell if he was looking at me or not, his sunglasses were too dark. It was precisely in that moment David grabbed me by the left arm and shouted “RUN ANISA RUN!” (Anisa, the name my mother called me, and only used by my closest friends till this day). Unsure of what was happening, and with David’s hand still on my arm, we ran fast. We ran towards the cashier and I remember this because I recall the look on her face, confused as to why we were running. We both looked back and the man was gone. He fled from the scene almost instantaneously and we never saw him again. I think we may have gone to the cashier and David said something but by that time it was too late. Predators move quickly.

Unsure why, but I never told my mom about that day. Maybe I was scared? My mother loved me and always did her best to keep me safe, but on that day, she also wanted to cut me some slack with a little independence. Imagine what could have happened if it wasn’t for David? Would I have ended up on a milk carton? Another statistic to add to the unthinkable tragedies of almost 30,000 missing children in Canada each year? I was lucky, no doubt. The fear I have from this day serves as a constant reminder of how scary and real it can be. Life is precious and the safety of our children is never to be taken lightly. Keep them close, keep them safe.

As for David and I, life and the years between separated our childhood friendship. I never thanked him for saving my life that day, I didn’t know to. So, David, if you are reading this, please know that it is because of you I am here and able to tell this story. Thank you for grabbing my arm and running with me. Thank you for the memories of being my childhood best friend and for being the boy who saved my life.

(You are also the boy who sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and got the broom stuck in the maple tree!)

Have A Remarkable Day!


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