The tragedies that befall children can happen in the blink of an eye. A few seconds is all it took for 4-year-old Evelyn Sides, who goes by the nickname Vadie, to vanish from the backyard of a family friend, “Nanny,” who was watching her at the time.
The girl was playing outside with her dog Lucie when she ran off into the Alabama woods. As Vadie describes it, “We took a walk, but then I got too fast and got running and got lost and then I started calling for Nanny, but Nanny was too far.”
As soon as Nanny realized Vadie was missing, she called 911. A search group was organized, and within hours there were around 400 volunteers scouring the woods looking for Vadie. The search party also included K-9 teams and two search helicopters. Hopes diminished as night fell without any trace of the little girl or her dog. The search group reconvened the very next day, but again night fell without any sign of Vadie.
Usually stories that start out like this don’t have a happy ending. But on Friday, volunteers walking along a county road heard a barking dog. It was Lucy, Sadie’s faithful playmate, who hadn’t left the girl’s side. Rescuers ran towards the sound and discovered the tiny little girl with bright red hair sleeping on the ground in a pinney valley less than a mile from where she had disappeared.
Vadie awoke from her slumber and greeted her rescuers. They gave her a Gatorade, a granola bar and a bite of banana. She seemed in good spirits. “I figured after two nights alone in the woods, she would be panicked and distraught and crying,” says Col. Edward Casey, who was one of the first to reach the girl. Instead, Vadie merely exclaimed, “Oh, I can’t wait to tell my mommy about my two nights out here.” She was also amazed at how many people seemed to be wandering the woods.
Of course, Vadie was never actually alone, she had her trusty sidekick Lucie by her side, which probably aided her survival. Describing the ordeal, Vadie says, “I slided, slided down a waterfall that was so slippery.” At one point she walked by a house but says, “I was brave not to go in,” by which I think she means it was scary to go knocking on the door of a stranger. “I slept by a road the first night and the second night I slept where they found me.”
Equally as amazing as this little girl’s survival story is the fact that so many people in such a large and well-equipped search party managed to miss her when scouring such a relatively small area. It’s a prime example of how easy it is for someone to lose themselves in the woods. (Either that, or she left out the part about playing hide and seek with the search party. At least it all worked out in the end: Evelyn was returned safe and sound after an unsanctioned 2-day camping trip, and has an awesome story to tell because of it. What have your kids been up to lately?
1. Michael Levenson, “Lost in woods girl, 4, is found after 2 days,” New York Times, March 31, 2020, p. A20