“Have you heard the Amber Alert?”
News of the double murder of 34-year-old Sara Baillie and her five-year-old daughter Taliyah Marsman has devastated Calgary– and the country. The tragic conclusion to the Amber Alert immediately sent my thoughts to two children whose names I don’t even know.
A chance encounter at the Calgary Stampede opened my eyes to the sweeping impact of one young life.
My four-year-old son is currently 41inches tall, an unremarkable fact that does not impact our daily lives. But on Wednesday, at BMO Kids’ Day at the Calgary Stampede, it meant he hadn’t reached the 42-inch benchmark had me squeezing into a midwayride along with him.
A boy and girl, which I assumed brother and sister, took the seats in the back row of our miniature helicopter.
One child poked his head up front prior to takeoff, briefly looked at the controls before designating all four of us a flight task. “We’ll be able to see all of the Stampede!”
The ridetwisted to the top of the tower and the children aboard, including my son, cheered and giggled. The sight of a real helicopter circling the park drew “whoas.”
Then, the flight took an unexpected turn.
“Have you heard the Amber Alert?” a young voice asked. A question far too serious for someone so innocent.
I told him I was aware that Taliyah was missing. My son continued to spin his steering wheel, oblivious to the conversation.
“She’s our friend,” said the boy.
My heart broke. I imagined the conversations these children must have had with their parents; what was included and what was omitted.
I said the only thing that came to my mind. “She is five-years-old, right?”
The kids confirmed Taliyah’s age adding, “She’s big for her age” and “looked like she’s eight.”
Not another word was said during the rest of the ride.
The flight ended and the children ran off while I slowly twisted myself out of the helicopter seat. My son and I returned to my wife and my daughter on the grounds.
I scanned the crowd looking for the parents of the boy and girl, unsure of what, if anything, I would say or do to offer my support.
Thursday night’s discovery of a body east of Calgary’s city limits ended the search for Taliyah, and a man known to her family now faces first-degree murder charges in connection with her death and the death of her mother.I wonder now what those two kids are saying about Taliyah.
In the coming days, weeks, months, difficult conversations will take place in homes around the city, either prompted by the questions of children or by parents choosing how to explain to their kids that Taliyah won’t be at dance class or available for a playdate.
Sad talks where the troubling topics are definitely too big for their age.