A Chance Encounter

A Chance Encounter

It’s a very dark Tuesday morning, January 13, 2015 at 6:30 am.

The wind was blowing hard and the temperature probably about zero—must be a chill factor of at least 15 below zero. As I was driving to work at St. Aloysius, I was thinking about how cold it was. My teeth hurt and I had a brain freeze going on from the few minutes I was outside getting the car ready to go.

As I moved through the streets of Detroit, I pulled up to Mack Avenue and Beaconsfield on the East side.  Down the street I could see traffic coming but something caught my eye. In the headlights I saw a person walking in the street. Drivers worked their way around this person and the only way I could see anything was in the headlights of the oncoming traffic. I paused at the intersection to see what was going on. Slowly the person walking in the street made their way to the front of my car. I stared in disbelief—right in front of me walking down the middle of the west bound lane of Mack Avenue was a teenage male. He was barefoot, wearing only boxer shorts and a tee-shirt. I watched as he walked by the intersection. Cars were whizzing by him on his left. I hopped out of the car and yelled to him but he showed no response at all. I walked into the street and yelled again. Still no response from him. I returned to my car and made my first call to 911.  6:37 a.m. showed on my phone. After requesting both police and EMS to be sent to the site, I put on my emergency flashers and pulled out behind him and followed creating, as best I could, a shield from the traffic coming from behind. He made no sign of knowing I was present. After some distance, he came to Alter Rd—a main intersection with a stop light. The teenager stopped and waited for the light.  While sitting at the light, I called 911 for the second time and gave them an update as to his location.  Almost ten minutes had passed. When the light turned green, he walked through the intersection and progressed down the road passing the entry to a major gas station located on the corner. Once by the entry, he turned back and walked up to the gas station; he went inside. The night shift person on duty pushed the young man outside by motioning with his hands—the way you might try to move a wayward dog out of a yard. Three times the attendant forced the young man out of the store. Three times the young man wandered back in. It is now 7:17 and for the third time I called 911. After my conversations with dispatch after asking where not only the police were but what has happened to EMS, I was told my call has gone out and they are both working to respond. I walked up the attendant and introduced myself. I informed him that I was waiting for the police and EMS to arrive and that I was watching out for the teenager until they arrived. The attendant then took the young man into the station and let him sit down next to the window. I had a coat that was donated during the Christmas Giving effort; I took it in and wrapped it around him. He shook uncontrollably and tears were running down his face. The attendant brought him hot coffee and a pair of socks.

I went out to my car and sat parked near the window watching and waiting. Within minutes a car pulled up to the front door. A man got out and went in and up to the teenager. The youth stood up and followed him out to the car. I went up to the pair and introduced myself. The man said he was the young man’s father. He explained to me that his son was autistic and that he had somehow slipped out of the house. He had been looking for him. He thanked me for my help. After our conversation, the father loaded the teen into his car and drove away. It was my hope that the father had taken him to the hospital, but I have no way of knowing for sure.

I made my fourth and last call to 911. I let them know that the young man had been taken by someone who said he was his father and that he was taking him home; I informed them I was leaving as well.  The time was 7:24 a.m.  I hopped in my car and continued on to St. Aloysius.

The police never did show up. Neither did EMS.  I left earlier than usual for work that day.  Now I know why.




Author: Mike Carsten OFS

Member of the Secular Franciscan Order; National Fraternity (NAFRA) Ecumenical and Interfaith Chair Minister, Troubadours of St. Clare Fraternity; President, Franciscan Ministries Inc., Serving the poor in Southeast Michigan;

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