To say that I am getting used to Amber Alerts appearing on my phone would be an overstatement. I don't think there has been a time when I looked at my phone buzzing and reading about the abduction of some unfortunate child. My mind races to imagine the circumstances and to wish for a speedy and reasonable end to the scenario presented. If you are unfamiliar with the machinations of the California Highway Patrol, an Amber Alert is sent out in partnership with media outlets in hopes of spreading information in the quickest way possible, including descriptions of the abductors, abductee as well as the make, model and license plate number of whatever mode of transport making the getaway. As a conscientious observer, I dutifully scroll through the information to see if I could be of any earthly good for the victims. Have I seen a red Toyota Corolla driven by a man with a beard and a six year old kid? I want to help.
Thing is, more often than not, they don't bother to broadcast the outcome. There have been plenty of happy endings, an equal number of false alarms, and the occasional tragedy. Those averages turn out to make me, at times, complacent. I would love to think, as a mandated reporter for children's welfare, I could help in any and all of those situations. As of this writing, I have not.
Which brings me to the most recent alert I received on my phone. Friday at noon, I heard the buzz of my phone vibrating on the desk a few feet away. I would like to say that I leapt across the room to see what was the matter, but I let it sit. For a few minutes. When I picked it up and refreshed the screen, it was not the standard Amber Alert. Instead, I saw this:
“State of California: All Bay Area Counties now under state stay at home order. This builds on previous local orders. COVID-19 is spreading rapidly. Stay home except for essential activity. Wear a mask. Keep your distance. Visit covid19.ca.gov.”
This wasn't an order to keep an eye out for anyone but us. We were being asked to save ourselves. And I confess, it gave me a little chill. The same little chill the first time I got a heads-up for a missing child. It made me think of the folks north of me who were getting similar messages when it was time to flee from the wildfires that compounded the fear and sadness that has been 2020. It made me think of the hundreds of thousands of victims of COVID-19. It made me think of happier times.
When my phone would vibrate for kidnappings only.