Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Lost and Found

And now...the rest of the story.

Yes, we lost our passports, credit cards, driver’s licenses, cameras, journals, a sweater, etc. I had gone directly to the police station to file a report, while Becky had headed straight back to the house where we were staying to cancel all our credit cards. While at the station, I called the American consulate there in Amsterdam. It was about 5:30 pm on a Friday, and they had just closed for the weekend thirty minutes earlier. I was able to dial an emergency number, where I reached a kind gentleman who told me we would need to come apply for temporary passports in person. Not on Saturday, of course not on Sunday, not even on Monday, as they would be closed for the July 4th weekend; this meant we had three full days before we could even stand in line for new passports. What complicated the situation is that our son, Timothy, was scheduled to fly back to the States with the other tour participants the next morning. We weren’t exactly hopeful about those prospects, but we were going to the airport anyway to see the others off.
That night at the hotel near the airport, I got a phone call from the Amsterdam police. My passport and credit cards had been found and turned in by an anonymous person. Although this was extremely encouraging, it really didn’t change the present circumstances much at all. We would still have to go the consulate on Tuesday, and it was still anybody’s guess as to whether Timothy would be able to get on the plane the next morning. With mixed emotions we fell asleep that night, aided by simple exhaustion.
At Schiphol airport the next morning, we were surprised to find an INS agent who OK’d Timothy to travel with just a photocopy of his passport and a copy of the police report. After a bit of an emotional goodbye, we waved the kids through passport control and sat down to consider the next steps. My cell phone rang, and it was our good friend Celeste in Amsterdam. “Dave!” she said, “I am holding Becky’s and Timothy’s passports and several other things of yours.” I had sent her an emergency e-mail from the hotel the night before, but she hadn’t read it yet. But she HAD received a text message from a total stranger, saying, “I have the stuff you lost.” To try to summarize the story, he had found the items while looking through a TRASH CAN in a different part of town from where we had been robbed, looking for stolen belongings of a woman he had met. Among the items was my journal, in which he found Celeste’s phone number. She told him, however, that she had no idea what he was talking about. A couple of hours later, she read my e-mail and everything made sense. She immediately called the man back (an Amsterdam photographer), hopped on her bike and picked up the things. Not only that, she arranged a place for us to stay with a wonderful Dutch couple while we got our affairs sorted out – even though we no longer needed to apply for emergency passports, we still had to work out how to access funds and other details, since we had cancelled all our credit cards.
The cameras, you ask? Of course they were not returned. The biggest loss we feel is the irreplaceable footage on the video camera. But there were more than one angel at work in these circumstances, and even the police were amazed that any of our belongings at all had been returned. Amsterdam is known for the kind of ordeal we went through – none of that was a surprise. We’re choosing to focus on that handful of people who did the right thing, counter to the city’s reputation, and yes, we will be back.

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