The big moment finally arrived when Fabienne’s plane landed at the Halifax Airport. Spriggs and I were escorted from the suite to meet the aircraft, which had taxied to the jet bridge. They had just attached the covered ramp to the airplane’s front side door as the airport manager escorted us down the covered hallway towards the plane entrance. I could feel my anticipation rising. Just outside the door of the plane, a rather distinguished-looking gentleman joined us. The airport manager introduced him as France’s representative: The Honourary French Vice-Consulate, Dominique Henry. This event was a huge deal. An international search had been underway for three years, and it had finally culminated in the best possible resolution. This is rare in police work and to be part of something so tremendously uplifting was overwhelmingly rewarding.
We cordially exchanged handshakes, and he thanked us for having recovered Sara. He spoke to us in French, and Spriggs later told me he kind of got the gist of it, but I responded to the ambassador in French. He seemed pleased with this and continued to chat “en francais.”
Directly in front of us was the unopened door to the plane. The engines were turned off, and all four of us stood in silence, waiting. I was jittery. The moment was upon us, and within seconds I was going to finally meet the mother of the sweet little angel I had come to know and who had been lost for three very long and agonizing years. This poor woman had been searching the world over for this one little girl. I can’t even begin to imagine the tears that she must have shed and the rollercoaster of emotions, both the hope and the despair she must have endured. And now, she was about to open that plane door, and we are going to take her to Sara. I felt a flood of pure happiness wash over me, knowing that by the grace of God, I was privileged to have played some small part in helping to make this happen.
Finally, the door opened, and unexpectedly the first person to exit the plane was Fabienne Brin. I had expected the pilots or the cabin crew to emerge first, but the two pilots followed close behind with big smiles, and the flight attendant was behind them. No doubt, it must have been their respect and reverence for her that had them stand aside. It was an unforgettable moment. To this day, I still have shivers whenever I think about it. I can see Fabienne’s eyes flashing across all our faces. The manager first introduced himself to Fabienne, and then the French Vice Consulate stepped forward.
Finally, the manager turned towards Spriggs and me and said, “These are the Policemen who found your daughter.”
Fabienne physically pushed the manager to the side, came to me, and wrapped her arms around me. She was sobbing: “Merci! Merci! Merci! You have given me my daughter. You have given me my life.”
I remember when my firstborn, Alyssa came into this world and the overwhelming love and joy I felt. The joy I felt when all my children were born. Every parent can remember revelling in that miracle. That is the only comparison I can think of that even comes close to reuniting a stolen child with their rightful parent.
Fabienne turned to Spriggs and hugged him. At this point, I think we were all crying. The joy was so overwhelming. When I look back at my career, this whole incident with Sara is why I joined the RCMP.
I found out later from Fabienne that she wasn’t impressed with the French Consular being there at the time. She had felt let down by her government and thought they had done very little to help her find her daughter. Yet, at this moment, she was overjoyed and beyond grateful that she was about to be reunited with Sara. As we walked back to the suite, Fabienne kept asking me questions about Sara: How does she seem? Is she okay? Has she been hurt? It was apparent to me that she was both nervous and excited. As we chatted, she kept dabbing at her eyes, “I am so overwhelmed by emotions.”
“Me too,” I replied.
When we arrived at the door to the room, Fabienne reached for my arm. “Do you think she will remember me? Do you think she knows who I am? Oh my God, I don’t want to scare her.”
“Everything is going to be alright,” I said with confidence. This seemed to calm her, and she seemed to collect herself just before we were about to enter.
“I’m not going to approach her too quickly; she may not remember me. The last thing I want to do is scare her.” Fabienne said.
“That is very wise,” I replied. I was in awe of her thoughtfulness as a parent. I can only imagine the overwhelming feeling of wanting to embrace your child immediately, to want to take them in your arms and make sure they are safe. It would be overpowering in a moment like this, and for Fabienne to have the wherewithal and ability to hold back amplified, for me, what a thoughtful and loving parent she was. She had immediately pushed her own needs aside to put her daughter’s emotions first.
I opened the door, and I entered, followed by Fabienne. Fabienne came into the room very slowly. When she reached Sara, she crouched down on one knee and started to speak very softly without reaching out to her. Sara kept looking at her mother, and she was understandably shy. Her head was down as she looked sideways out the corner of her eye at her mom. As Fabienne kept talking, Sara would nod her head yes or no. I couldn’t hear what Fabienne was saying, but I could tell that it wouldn’t be long before they would be in each other’s arms. Within another three or four minutes, I heard Fabienne ask Sara if she could give her a hug, and Sara nodded. The moment Fabienne cradled her daughter in her arms, the room burst into tears. There were audible gasps. I sobbed as this mother and child held each other and cried.
After a few moments, Fabienne took Sara to the bedroom so they could have some time alone. Fabienne looked back and smiled at me as I closed the door. My wife and I hugged each other. I hugged my daughter, then Spriggs and I hugged. We stayed for another hour in that room as Fabienne and Sara took their time reuniting.
Fabienne had arranged for them to have two seats on the next airplane going to Montreal. They were flying out later that day and would connect in Montreal for a flight to France. She was finally going to be able to bring her daughter home. Fabienne told me that there would be a grand celebration when they arrived at the French airport. She said her whole family and friends were anxiously awaiting to meet Sara and celebrate their return home. I hugged Sara and told her that it was such an honour to have met her. I told her that she was one of the bravest girls I had ever met. Fabienne and I exchanged our particulars, and before leaving, I invited her and her family to come back to Nova Scotia anytime to visit.
You can read the prior article about Sara here.
Ghostwriter: Bev Hotchkiss is an accomplished and comprehensive freelance writer with over ten years of experience. As ghostwriter/editor for Patrick’s memoir, she helped Patrick express and reconcile some of his most traumatic and difficult emotions. Together they navigated the sensitive world of PTSD and Alzheimer’s to create an engaging and poignant story with the hopes of helping others understand themselves or their loved ones.