SIDNEY, Man. — Twelve hours of worry, followed by the frenzied rush of fear knowing your child is alone and cold throughout the night, all suddenly over with the warm relief that everything is going to be fine.
That range of emotion is what Savannah Malyon and Matthew Dailey went through as their son Nathaniel was found alive and well, five kilometres east of Sidney just before 11 a.m. Saturday. There he was, rescuers informed the few dozen townsfolk who gathered in front of the general store, playing in the north ditch on the side of the Trans-Canada Highway after enduring a night of sub-zero temperatures.
Happy ending. Everything back to normal again.
"I’m so happy for all these people that came together and so grateful for everyone," Malyon said minutes after word started to spread. "This is just amazing, all this manpower coming together to help find my son. It’s just amazing. I’m just so grateful he’s found now. I’m so happy and ready to see him.
"I was just beside myself," she continued. "I haven’t really slept or anything. It was just horrible. It was cold out and dark and oh my God, there’s so many things that could have happened to him. The highway is right there, the train tracks are here... I was so worried."
Nathaniel’s father was equally thankful that it all worked out.
"I’m ready to collapse. I guess I haven’t been this nervous since (he was) born — that’s the only way I can describe it," Dailey said. "It’s pretty close to the same; a lot of tension and then it’s over with.
"I can comfortably collapse now. I got nothing. I want to see my boy and when I do I’ll be happy."
The boy was taken to Portage hospital and then transferred to Children’s Hospital in Winnipeg for observation. Other than a few scratches and bruises — he was in just his pajamas and socks when he went missing — Malyon says he’s going to be OK.
The search and recovery of the three-year-old ended an frantic hunt for Nathaniel that started late Friday evening, when the child snuck out of bed and walked out the front door without a trace. Malyon’s mother and some friends had stopped by for a visit and didn’t know to lock the door behind them and when Malyon went to put her two other children to bed, she noticed the front door was wide open.
"It was just in a matter of seconds and he was gone," said Malyon, who endured the death of a child two years ago.
Cue the instant panic. A quick search of the immediate area turned up nothing. As more and more people started to arrive throughout the night to help with the search, Portage RCMP were called and a plane with thermal imaging was brought in. The Winnipeg Police Service volunteered its helicopter to assist in the search as well.
Still nothing. An urgent public alert was issued about four hours after Nathaniel was reported missing — around 2:30 a.m. Saturday — and by morning over 150 trained and untrained volunteers were combing the area for the boy. Officials were relieved at the outcome, and said five kilometres is a pretty good distance for a three-year-old to wander off.
"As the models go, that tell us the statistics of situations like this, he was just in that range," RCMP search and rescue co-ordinator Sgt. Rod Karpish said. "It is a long ways."
Located 60 km west of Portage la Prairie, Sidney was tense throughout the morning, but people were all smiles after Nathaniel was located. The words "they found him and he’s OK" lifted a giant weight off the town.
Pauline Blair and Frances Johnson, great-aunts to Nathaniel, arrived at the side of the highway soon after the boy was discovered. Both were in tears when they were told Nathaniel was going to be all right. "We're so relieved they found him alive," an emotional Johnson said. "We’re so glad. Great effort with everybody coming together to help."
Dailey, who works nights and hadn’t slept in 48 hours, just couldn’t get over how the community came together.
"There’s nothing people won’t do for each other out there," he said. "It could have been anyone’s kid, it just doesn’t matter. If someone is out here and in trouble, everyone is working together. It just the way it is. It’s a tight community. You see the better part of humanity with a day like this."