It was the 4th of July weekend and as expected DC was spilling over with people - curious tourists like me and the patriotic types bursting into the "Star spangled banner" at the drop of a hat. Every museum on the Mall had huge lines leading into it and it was nothing to seperate one from the other as far as the entry times were concerned. I set my sights on the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and joined the impatient hundreds waiting to get in. It took me about 20 minutes to get in but it was worth the effort with the displays of planes like the SR-71 Blackbird, an exhibit on the early history of human flight and the wonderfully weird equipment for space travel. I didn't really have too much time on my hands with other museums to be seen so I did something of a crash course run through the museum before heading for the exits.
Like the rest of Washington DC, the museum itself was packed with every exhibit being swarmed by human bees and noise levels that would shatter the peace of outer space. Kids, parents, old military types jostled for the few feet of space required to move through the milling crowds. Approaching the exits I saw right in front of me a very young Asian kid maybe 2-3 years old, so obviously lost in the mayhem and the maze of feet walking around him. He walked little baby steps, mouth open in shock bereft of the hands that had brought him into this place looking about in every direction for a familiar face. What was a fun trip into a world of planes and astronauts was turning out to be his worst nightmare. Before I could help him out, a security guard spotted him and gathered him up in her arms, comforting him and telling him that they would find his mom soon. The kid was like a mannequin, silent and static still coming to terms with what this situation could possibly lead to.
Within a few moments, his harried parents came running through the doors worry writ large over their faces searching desperately for their little son. On seeing their son in the security guard's arms, a wave of joy splashed across their faces. Their son on the other hand leaped off the security woman's arms straight into his mom's and let her have a dose of all his pent-up emotions. He screamed and bawled, crying his soul out in a collective feeling of anger at being left behind and relief at being found. I hope that when the kid grows up he will still remember how helpless & lost he felt those few moments in the Museum and how very central were his parents to his existence as indeed they are to most of us during those tender early years of our life. That it is possible to be lost even in the midst of a thousand people without the support of those people who really care for us most.