A Girl Named Angelina

I was meant to finish writing our itinerary for our trip to Italy in August but I don't think I can let this day pass without sharing my rather interesting experience this evening. As cliche as it may sound, things really happen for a reason.

Whilst I was anticipating dinner with my former colleagues to go on forever as I haven't seen them in quite a long time, something happened that made me leave early. Feeling tired from socialising all day, I tromped through the Golden Jubilee bridge on my way back to Soho. The 20-minute walk seemed so long because of the humid weather. I felt so unfit climbing up a few steps to the bridge. Although the sudden cool breeze on bridge made me feel better, I still couldn't wait to go home. It was only quarter to eight and I was ready for bed. 

As I continued to walk towards Northumberland Avenue, I noticed a girl walking seemingly by herself, barefoot and clutching a cash register toy on her chest . I looked around to check whether someone was following her or ahead of her, but I couldn't see anyone. I stopped and spoke to the girl. I asked her where her Mommy and Daddy were. She pointed towards the direction I was going, but I couldn't see anyone who could potentially be her parents. The girl has Down's Syndrome so she was not able to express herself very well. I took her to the side while I tried to make sense of what she was trying to tell me. People were looking at me, probably suspicious of my intentions but I knew I shouldn't leave the girl by herself. After few minutes when I realised that no one was actually looking for her because otherwise, someone would have shouted her name, I decided to call the police. The girl left her toy on the floor, telling me through hand gesture to just leave it there. I reassured her that I was going to bring her back to Mommy and Daddy but I just needed to call the police to let them know. She nodded her head as if she understood everything that I said.

I was put on hold for at least 10 minutes. Apparently, the police were busy dealing with emergency and there could be a long wait, so I decided to google the nearest police station in Charring Cross instead. I found one just about 6 mins walk from where we were. I offered my hand to the girl and she held it without any hesitation. I picked up her toy and told her we were going to the police. 

It felt surreal walking hand in hand with a girl that I actually didn't know. I never had this experience before and I didn't know how I was feeling at that precise moment. I imagined her mother going frantic because she probably thought she has lost her baby girl. I wondered if she had a Daddy, a brother or a sister. I wondered how she got lost. Was she deliberately left on the street? That was horrible, I thought. As we continued walking on the busy street of Strand, the girl touched my hand (with her free Right hand) as if to say thank you and then she looked at me with a smile. I asked her again which way did her parents go, but she pointed to the direction that we were heading to. She was making wave-like gestures with her right hand, so I thought she meant a boat? I wasn't sure. The thought of someone potentially losing their child pierced my heart's core. That would be the worst thing that could ever happen to a mother or a father. I should know. I have been there - although in different circumstances.

When we finally arrived at the Police station, we had to queue. There were two people in front of us. The lady being served was complaining about a wallet that she has lost earlier. She wasn't sure how and where she lost it and therefore, she was sort of dismissed. Then a policeman came out of the door. He asked if we were okay. I informed him that I found the girl alone in the street. He immediately took us through a double door and ordered two gentlemen out of the room . One of them had a cast on his right arm but perhaps they have dealt with him so he was okay to leave.

The policeman then instructed us to take a sit. He asked if I knew the girl's name. I remember her telling me "Athena" when I first asked her, but I wasn't 100% sure if I understood it correctly. The policeman was convinced that the girl was not British. I initially thought she was Italian so I asked her, "Come si chiama?" to which she replied with a hint of irritation, "Athena". The policeman gave her a piece of paper and a pen and asked her to write her name. She only managed to write A and N. We thought her name was "Annie". And then her toy caught my eyes. It had numbers on it. I started counting "uno", pointing to number one. She continued counting from two to ten in Spanish. I asked her what the table was called and she said "mesa". Then I showed her photos of spoon and fork to which she said, "chuchara" and "tenedor". Between us, the policeman and I were able to figure out what language the girl spoke.

After half an hour of trying to communicate through sign language and photographs, we finally received the good news that the police might have potentially found her parents. I reassured the girl that she will see Mommy and Daddy soon. A few minutes later, her family arrived. Her father was the first one to hug her. Her mother was still in shock. Her sister was elated to have found her little sister. Teary-eyed, her father thanked me and kissed me on the cheek. Her mother was speechless. All she could say was thank you. I asked them what the girl's name was and the mother said, "Angelina". They were apparently from Argentina. The parents spoke little English but the sister was kind of fluent. The sister introduced herself as Maggie. I thought she said her Mom was called Jemima. I briefly told them how I found Angelina and then the police asked for my details. After that, I was cleared to go.

The family won't let me go because they wanted me to take some cash so I could have a cup of coffee. I didn't take the money of course.  Instead, I left them my mobile number should they want to keep in touch. On my way out, Maggie followed me and begged me to take the money. I told Maggie I didn't need the money, and that it was enough for me to have brought Angelina back to her family. She said thank you once more. I hugged her and said goodbye.

Perhaps anyone would have done the same, but I feel special knowing that I have done something as rewarding as helping a lost child, keeping her safe and bringing her back to her family. 

It is not everyday that I get to play a hero outside my profession, so I will treasure this experience forever. I will try hard not to doubt myself ever again because honestly? after today, I know I have done something right in my life, at least once. At least today.



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