The email came in just before noon on a Tuesday. “Please help me,” said the subject line, with a “from” address originating in Europe. Bracing for a scam that sneaked through our spam filter, I began reading with skepticism that slowly turned to deep concern. This was no fake scenario.
The public information office gets its share of unexpected email, letter and phone call queries. It amazes me what people expect we will know and amazes me more to realize that for the most part we actually do know it. And when we can’t help, there are others throughout the municipality who will jump in. I definitely wanted help with this one.
In broken English, a German woman explained that she had lost touch with an aunt in Mt. Lebanon since speaking with her on her birthday a few months before. “The answering machine is full and it is also not recalled,” she wrote. “My aunt is 83 years old, and there what can happen always. I give myself great troubles.”
The aunt’s name and address checked out on the county real estate website. The house seemed to be a little isolated. Unwanted possibilities began floating through my mind, so I decided to go straight to the top. I contacted Aaron Lauth, our chief of police.
“Our officers will look into it,” the chief reassured me. As luck would have it, the assignment fell to Lt. Mike McMurtrie, an 18-year veteran of the force known for his wisecracks and large personality (and in my opinion, a heart of gold he strives to conceal.) “Locating this elderly resident was a very simple assignment,” he told me. The niece had given an address but not a phone number; however, Google saved the day.
By 7 that evening, an answer was on its way to Germany: “Your aunt…is home and recovering from injuries from a fall….She spent one and a half months in a hospital and rehabilitation facility and returned home three days ago. She said that she will call you when she feels better.”
By 8 p.m., McMurtrie had reported back to the chief, and by 9 p.m., the chief had assuaged my concern with the news of the happy outcome. And somewhere in there, came a very grateful reply to the MLPD from Germany:
“Thank you completely cordially for your message. Me is a stone of the hearts pleases. Love of greetings from Düsseldorf.”
Me too, Lieutenant Mike and Chief Aaron.