July 25, 2014 at 6:17 PM
On the morning of July 14, a community that spanned municipalities came together for one purpose: Find and safely return home two missing Lansdale Borough toddlers.
Lansdale Police Sgt. Alex Kromdyk told Lansdale Borough Council last week that numerous officers, detectives and K9 units from Hatfield, Upper Gwynedd and Towamencin townships, and Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office turned out and chipped in to take part in the search.
However, there was one group who should be commended for its efforts: The employees and management of A.L. Finishing Co. on Schwab Road in Hatfield Township.
For, it was two of its employees who found the 5-year-old boy and 3-year-old girl playing in the creekbed behind the Wedgewood development.
“They found out about the police activity and they stopped working. They sent employees out looking for these children. They just stopped. Two of those employees were walking the creekbed on the Hatfield Township side, where the children were found, unharmed,” Kromdyk said. “These children were able to be returned to their mother safe and sound.”
Kromdyk said he didn’t know what A.L. Finishing did at the time. Now, he knows that they treat metal, specializing in anodizing on aluminum, passivation of aluminum and stainless steel and black oxide on steel. Principal contacts at A.L. Finishing Co. are Jamie Hemmerle, Timothy Hemmerle, Chris Hemmerle and Jack Oberholtzer.
“I’ve got to tell you,” he said, “if I ever need metal treating, for whatever reason, it’s going to be A.L. Finishing.”
Then he made a request to council.
“I’d like it if you consider maybe, at some point, bringing the owners of the company in to recognize them publicly,” he said.
Kromdyk laid out the story of the nail-biting and triumphant search to council and the audience.
Officers were called out to a home on Andover Road in the Wedgewood development, where it was discovered that the two children were missing.
Their mother took them out to their fenced-in, gated backyard, and left them unattended as she retreated inside to check on her newborn. When she soon returned to the backyard, the children were gone and the gate was open.
“Anyone that’s a parent knows that feeling,” Kromdyk said. “Nothing could ever hit you harder than those first few seconds. Your breath is taken away. Every fiber of your being just wants to collapse when you find your children are not where they are supposed to be.”
The mother ran out front, frantically yelling and looking for her children, to no avail. Kromdyk said she then did the right thing and called 911.
“Time is of the essence when it comes to these types of calls,” Kromdyk said.
Within minutes, a patrol supervisor had called for additional help from outside police departments, he said. Soon, police and detectives from all over the county – and even a JeffStat helicopter from Lansdale Hospital – dropped everything, including criminal investigative interviews, and converged on Wedgewood to search on the ground and from the air.
Meanwhile, Kromdyk was just turning off from Eighth Street onto Moyer Road as additional help began to arrive on scene. First, he stopped to check the ballparks at Schweiker Park and the Moyer Road Edwin G. Holl Memorial Complex, asking parents and children if they had seen the missing toddlers.
As Kromdyk head back out to Moyer Road from Schweiker Park, he heard a radio update: Their bikes were also missing.
“At that point, a little of my angst went away. Nobody was saying it, but everybody was thinking it: Abduction. My angst dropped because they probably got on their bikes and rode away and are somewhere in the neighborhood,” he said.
Kromdyk arrived at Andover Road where it dumps out onto Schwab, he said. It was then that he said his angst “lifted tenfold.”
“I saw the bikes at the intersection. When I saw those bikes, I had two voices immediately start screaming in my head. One was the cop in me saying, ‘I have to protect this as a potential crime scene.’ The parent in me was screaming, ‘No, they’re fine. They wandered off somewhere.’”
Kromdyk set up a mobile command post at Schweiker Park.
“JeffStat was great enough to show up,” he said. “Everything happens very quickly.”
Meanwhile, officers and detectives were knocking on every door, visiting with the parents and canvassing the area.
Then, Kromdyk saw something, he said, that made him proud.
“I started seeing our own borough employees showing up: Public Works, Highway, Parks and Recreation. They came in pickup trucks and were involved in the search,” he said.
“It’s funny, as busy as I am to direct people on my end, three words come to mind: One team concept. It made me proud,” he said. “I’ve had a long career with Lansdale Police, and I’ve had a lot of proud moments in my career here. I can’t tell you, I’m very proud to be an employee of the entire borough at that point. Everybody was chipping in.”
There was no better way to express community spirit, he said, than everything that happened that day.
“Everybody was chipping in. It was a great story,” he said.
Kromdyk likened it to Hillary Clinton’s book, “It Takes a Village,” which took a lot of heat, he said, because it impressed that a village, not a family, raises a child. Kromdyk said it was true – outside influences do impact a child’s upbringing.
“I’ve got to tell you, it took a village to find two kids to bring them safely home,” he said.
Council President Jason Van Dame thanked Kromdyk for his comments and praised the efforts of the search party.
“What a great story,” Van Dame said. “It’s too often we hear the other side of that. It’s great to have the outcome that it did. Thanks to everybody involved that day.”