The train’s automatic glass doors closed, and my 12-year-old brother was on the other side. As it pulled away from the station, my dad and I could only look on in disbelief. We had just lost my brother on a German train.
Until now, even my mom doesn’t know the full story of how we almost had to come back to Atlanta without one of her sons.
It was Thanksgiving 2003, and my dad had decided to take the two of us on a trip to visit our former au pairs in Germany. Like most of my dad’s travel plans, this one involved planes, trains, taxis, hikes and a different city every night.
We were on a train from the Frankfurt airport to the central train station when we realized we had left a bag at the airport station. Amid the confusion of getting off the train to go back and get it, my brother hadn’t gotten the message.
So we were at a crossroads. Should we go back and get the bag, or try to find my younger brother?
With his priorities solidly in line, my dad decided to go for the bag first.
Back in 2003, in a foreign country, we didn’t have cellphones, so getting in contact with my brother on a train headed in the opposite direction was tricky.
Dad and I went back to get the unattended bag, which was somehow sitting right where we left it. Even though this was post-9/11, Europe was still living in a period of relative bliss when it came to security.
Dad told me to stay at the Frankfurt airport train station with all the bags and wait to see whether my brother came back while he searched every stop along the way. I remember watching countless trains roll into the station to see whether my younger brother would come out. An hour went by, and he never did.
Unbeknownst to us, a woman on the train had seen what transpired and called the police. They met my brother and the woman at the next stop and took him to the police office at the Frankfurt central train station. So when Dad went back to look for him at every stop, he wasn’t there.
Assuming that he had somehow found his way to the central station, Dad rushed back to get me, and we went there together with our bags in tow.
When we arrived, Dad asked security about a lost 12-year-old. This time they told him that my brother was safe and sound in the custody of German police. At the police station, I half-expected them to cuff my dad for child neglect, but they let us go, and we went on to have a great trip in Deutschland.
Father’s Day often gets lost in the shuffle among Mother’s Day, summer vacation and the Fourth of July, but it’s a great opportunity to sit back and remember the many times that your dad was able to get you out of a sticky situation. And for that we say thanks.