I helped save a life this week.
I know, I know. You’re thinking, “Meliss, you help save a life every day. That’s what you do for a living. Pfft.”
You’re right. I have a kick-ass job. One of the best in the world. I get to bask in the glory of service to others every day. This isn’t about that.
This is about a little service called Nixle.
What is Nixle?
Nixle is a Community Information Service dedicated to helping you stay connected to the information that matters most to you, depending on your physical location. You stay connected to your local police department, your children’s schools, your local community agencies and organizations, and the important information from other locations throughout the country that are relevant to you. Our service is built on the most secure, reliable, and high-speed distribution platform, ensuring that you receive trusted and immediate, geographically relevant information. Information is immediately available over your cell phone by text message, by email, and over the web. Your account can be customized so you receive the information that matters most to you. Whether it is where you live, work, or have friends or family throughout the country, the information is immediately available to you over your mobile phone, email and computer.
(That’s directly from their site. I couldn’t say it any better so why try?)
I signed up for Nixle — as citizen, not as an RPDPS employee — a few years ago, and immediately signed up for alerts not only for my hometown and the town I work in, but also for key friends’ and relatives’ homes. (So, if the tornado that has raged through Oklahoma gets anywhere near my sister-in-law in Iowa, I’ll hear about it.)
Thus, from time to time I get the press releases and notifications issued by my local police departments, just as any other citizen who signs up for the Nixle service would.
Last week was a brutal week, schedule-wise (which will continue into this week, but I’m not whining). Also, I’m not sleeping well. In fact, I’m sleeping in two-hour increments, and I get two or three of those increments in — four if I’m really lucky — before I give up and start my day.
Now, when I say two-hour increments, here’s how it typically goes: I get to sleep around 8 a.m., and sleep until about 9:30 a.m. I wake up, check my email and texts, reply if anything is urgent, and fall back asleep for another two hours. I wake up again around 11:30 a.m., and follow the same process: email, texts, reply, go back to sleep. Lather, rinse, repeat: I’m awake again at 1:30 p.m. and, if I haven’t given up altogether, do it one more time, waking up around 3:30 p.m., and finally crawling out of bed around 4 or 4:30 p.m. unless I have an earlier appointment. (I’m sure there are thousands of women of a certain age who can commiserate with me in this regard. I call it menopausal insomnia, but I’m pretty sure it’s my partner and friend for the rest of my life.)
I do the whole email, texts, reply thing every time I wake up because I read somewhere that if you can’t sleep, it’s better to be productive, than to just lie around frustrated because you can’t get to sleep. So, I’ve got a pretty good routine going; I’m feeling pretty good overall; and certain people are convinced I never sleep at all because I’m answering emails and texts at all hours of the day and night. That’s okay; let’s let them think that.
I’m explaining all that to say, I first saw the press release about a missing person sometime Thursday afternoon, just after the Petaluma Police Department (PPD) first sent it out. At that time, John Wirth, a 48-year-old mentally disabled man, had been missing for about a day after leaving on a bike ride and not returning home. John had suffered a traumatic brain injury in a motorcycle accident years earlier, so was unable to care for himself on a daily basis. The press release included a picture of John, but honestly I wasn’t paying very close attention because what were the odds that I would run across him?
So… as I said, I read the press release during one of my awake times, deleted it and went back to sleep. Eventually, I got up and went about my day, which included a drive out to Dillon Beach and home again with Prince Charming, and then a drive to a client’s office in St. Helena — about an hour each way — and then home for a while before I went in to work an overtime shift from 2 a.m. to 7 a.m.
That trip to Dillon Beach was actually our second trip in two days. On the way home from Wednesday’s trip, we had stopped to help a bicyclist who had lost her tire in the middle of her 50 mile ride, and gave her a ride back to her car on our way back into town.
So on Thursday when I was on my way to St. Helena and noticed another bicyclist walking his bike along the side of the road pretty much in the middle of beautiful nowhere, I considered whether or not I would pick him up and give him a ride. I looked at him pretty closely in my rear-view mirror and decided I would not – being a woman alone on the road, ya know.
I worked at my client’s for a couple of hours, and then took the reverse-route home, noticing again that same gentleman still walking his bike, and thinking to myself “he hasn’t gotten very far.” I looked at him again, and then continued on my way home.
Two hours after I got home, I was re-checking my emails and there was an updated press release from PPD via Nixle that John’s cell phone had been last “pinged” (tracked) in the Napa County area, around Jameson Canyon and Highway 80, earlier that evening. I thought, “huh, that’s a pretty direct southward line from where I saw that guy walking his bike.” A distance away, but it got my attention. Both press releases had been accompanied by this picture, which I now looked at more closely:
Damned, if I wasn’t certain that had been the guy I had seen walking his bike two hours earlier, another county away. I immediately called PPD, explained who I was — which probably gave me half an ounce of credibility — and was transferred to an on-duty detective. I explained my story, told the detective that I was “reasonably certain” I had seen John, but I was unable to describe his clothing or his bike. I had focused so closely on his face that the rest was lost in tunnel vision, but because of the hair bushing out around the right side of his head I knew in my heart it was a match. I was able to say very nearly exactly where I had seen him and what time that had been.
Sure enough, the detective called back a short time later to say that right around the same time they had called the Napa County Sheriff’s office to ask them to check where I had seen him last, another citizen was also reporting a suspicious subject in that same area. Because they had the additional information from my call that the suspicious person might be Petaluma’s missing person, the connection was made and John was found, not far from where I had last seen him — and many miles from where a search and rescue was just about to start based on his cell phone’s last location.
I’ll let you read the rest of the story in the newspaper article (linked to that photograph above) which I reluctantly agreed to speak to the reporter about, so I could talk about Nixle.
I told the whole back-story here in this post because I believe that we are all connected by invisible energy threads, which result in one person’s action affecting another person’s outcome. (I just love the show Touch for just that reason; it explains the concept so well.)
Nevertheless, my point is this: GO SIGN UP FOR NIXLE.
Do it now. Be connected to your community. You, too, can be a hero, because the only thing that makes a person a hero is being in the right place at the right time with the right information and the willingness to act on it.
You can do that, right? Yes, yes, you can.