MIAMI (AP) — The lost little girl on the beach was wearing a T-shirt stamped with Disney’s Frozen princesses.
She was crying.
But all was made right after a kind stranger comforted her and a police officer walked her back to her family.
A bystander’s photo of the officer and child walking hand in hand drew widespread attention after it was posted on Facebook.
Clearwater police officers Rich Edmonds and Ryan Bianca had just started their shift Tuesday evening when the call came in: Child found on the beach.
Edmonds, who has two young children of his own, said his heart almost stopped as it always does he gets calls involving children.
Once at the beach, Edmonds found 6-year-old Hannah with a woman whose family had been enjoying the afternoon at the beach.
“She calmed the little girl down, gave her a juice box and called police,” Edmonds recalled in an interview with The Associated Press on Friday.
Meanwhile, authorities learned that someone about a half-mile down the beach had approached lifeguards about a missing child. Bianca headed to the lifeguard station to meet the family. Edmonds planned to take Hannah to his patrol vehicle and drive her there.
“She was upset and didn’t want to get in the vehicle,” Edmonds said. “So I said, ‘OK, let’s walk.”
As Edmonds took the child by the hand, yoga instructor Amy Amerell was walking behind them with her friend who was visiting. They immediately noticed the officer and the little girl and Amerell said she snapped a picture with her iPhone.
“I told my friend, this may not be appropriate, but I want to take a picture because it’s such an example of kindness and goodness,” Amerell recalled on Friday. “It was the juxtaposition of the big police officer and the tiny little girl.”
Amerell posted the photo on her Facebook page, adding, “there’s still beauty in the world.”
The photo attracted so much attention that she sent it to the Clearwater Police Department.
“I wanted to share it with them because it was so beautiful,” she said.
The police department shared the photo on its Facebook page Friday morning. By late afternoon, it had received numerous likes and shares.
As they walked down the beach, Edmonds said he told Hannah she did the right thing by finding a family with children to ask for help. He said everyone needs to have a plan in case they get lost. For children, it’s to approach someone with children, or an authority figure, such as a lifeguard on the beach.
Their walk ended at the lifeguard station, where Hannah’s uncle was waiting for her.
Clearwater is on Florida’s west coast, near Tampa.