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Help! I Lost my Daughter in the Hermitage!

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St. Petersburg, RUSSIA -- Hermitage Entrance Hall   Photo Credit: Ann Weeks
St. Petersburg, RUSSIA — Hermitage Entrance Hall Photo Credit: Ann Weeks

St. Petersburg, RUSSIA — It’s every parent’s worst nightmare, and it happened to me in the blink of an eye. I feared that I had lost my daughter in the Hermitage, the world’s largest museum.

It was a slow and agonizing 30 minutes before I was reunited with my 12-year-old daughter. The recovery process took a bit longer than the norm, but that’s because we were strangers in another country. I did not know how to speak the language; I did not know how to communicate with the museum officials. I was at a loss, and quickly fell into a panic mode. My body began shaking uncontrollably with fear.

I’ve never lost my daughter before in a public place back home, much less in a foreign country while on vacation. My heart was beating a mile a second, as soon as I realized her absence. I was filled with anger for being incredibly stupid, full of fear because of her absence, and frustrated beyond belief for not being able to communicate with the on-duty museum officials. My guard had been down. I felt safe in our surroundings. We were touring Russia among a group of fellow American travelers, we were on our second day of guided tours, pacing ourselves in this gorgeous and historical city, St. Petersburg, Russia, commonly known as the “ The Venice of the North.”

I turned for what seemed like less than a minute, and my daughter was gone. Out-of-sight. I’m fortunate to share a happy ending to our story. We were reunited with each other in the end. During my daughter’s absence, I did feel that we had a strong chance of finding her quickly, since my children and I have drilled with each other on several occasions about various “what-if ” scenarios. I highly recommend such rehearsals to  traveling families. Make certain that every family member knows and understands the details of a “what-if” plan, similar to what civil-defense experts and school officials do for fire drills, tornado and hurricane drills, and the like.

And try to have kids involved in your own “what-if” family plan as much as possible. If a situation arises, you’ll be happy you were prepared.

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