The Brannigan Family: “Thank You, Westport!”

Last Saturday, Terry Brannigan’s father Robert — who suffers from dementia — disappeared. It was a harrowing day for the longtime Westport family.

Terry contacted the Westport Police, and “06880.” Fortunately — hours later — his dad was found. Terry recounts that day, and thanks his community:

I wanted to reach out to everyone who helped with the events of last Saturday on behalf of my family — in particular the “06880” nation.

This is a case of the system working exactly as it should, and friends acting exactly as they should. When we first got the call from my mother, the family simply hopped into our cars and began searching.

Westport PoliceWhen my dad had been gone 3 hours, we called the Westport Police. They sent out a BOTLO (Be on the Lookout) alert to the Westport emergency response community.

While that took place, my sister and I continued to enlist people to look for my dad, and sent family to be with my mother.  After 4 hours I called “06880.” Ten minutes later there was my father’s photo on the site, and we began to get our first calls from friends.  No one had seen my father, but they wanted to know we were in their thoughts.

I drove toward Fairfield, and on the Post Road flagged a Fairfield cop who could tell I was upset. He tried to keep me calm and immediately enlisted his department. After another hour, my sister Kathleen and I re-engaged with the Westport Police. It was getting dark, and we thought of the worst.

The Westport PD dispatched a cruiser to meet us in the parking lot of Home Goods to gather information to issue a full Silver Alert. To my relief, Tommy Casimiro pulled in. Tommy is exactly the person you want in an emergency: intelligent, thoughtful and clearly capable. He walked me through the required information, then followed me home to collect photographs.  Tommy provided me with his private contact numbers, and texted me throughout the night.

cell-phone-ringingI am not sure what time the Red Alert call went out, but concerned friends began to check in with my mother. I am very glad my father’s name was provided in the alert. My neighbor came over to watch the kids, followed immediately by my sister-in-law. My father was clearly in everyone’s thoughts.  The manager of the Norwalk Costco even sent an employee out to check the parking lot.

By 9:30, after driving the same routes over and over and calling all the hospitals, it was clear that our place was with my mother. My dad had been missing more than 10 hours with no money or ID, so we braced for very bad news.

Miraculously at 10:30, the telephone rang. My wife said, “You got him?!” She handed the phone to me. To my shock, someone from the Fort Dix military police in New Jersey said they had found my father. He was safe, and in the hospital.

SilverAlertProfileLogoA Silver Alert is akin to an Amber Alert — but for older people. The MPs had received a call of an unidentified car on the base. When they found my father — confused, dehydrated and suffering from a minor medical emergency — they immediately discovered his Silver Alert. They started the process of getting him back home. A 2nd Red Alert went out to Westport, saying he’d been found. My sister and I were back in the car — this time relieved and on our way to New Jersey.

There’s a lot of community in our community, when you look for it. We did not get home until early the next day. I had to be at a PAL football jamboree, but as soon as I got there I was surrounded by friends offering help and sharing their relief.  It was great. The same thing has been happening ever since.

On behalf of the Brannigan family, we want everyone to know how thankful we are — and to know that the process works.

10 responses to “The Brannigan Family: “Thank You, Westport!”

  1. Wonderful story Terry, thanks for sharing!

  2. In Austin, TX I was praying for his safe return. I am so glad about this harrowing but ultimately wonderful (and inspiring) outcome. Thank you Dan. I am so glad to have 06880 to feel reconnected with my home town.

  3. Dan, We live on a cul-de-sac in Fairfield. One day while gardening, I notice a car sitting my neighbors driveway. Knowing that neighbor was not home I asked the driver if he needed some help. I found a sweet but very confused elderly man at the wheel. With the help of the Fairfield police, his cel phone, and some astute questions asked by my daughter, we contacted his family and found he had driven all day having started out in the morning from somewhere in New Jersey. It all ended well. But the Silver Alert System was not in place then and I realize from your story how great such a system is. Thanks, Dan. Glad it worked out for the Brannigans.
    Jim Honeycutt

  4. Eric William Buchroeder

    Clearly, God has Mr. Brannigan in the palm of his (or her) hand.

  5. Richard Lawrence Stein

    Was so happy for your happy ending Terry … Glad Westport and local communities showed their true colors

  6. Beth Shea Mellinger

    From Pittsburgh Pa Thank You to all of you wonderful people in Westport Conn. and beyond you have been my home away from home for as long as I can remember when I visit my Uncle Bob Brannigan, Aunt Anne and my lovinging family. So on behalf of the the Shea-Brannigan contingent here in Pittsburgh THANK YOU! For your professionalism, support, and kindness.

  7. I too was very happy for the Brannigan family when Mr. Brannigan was found safe in NJ. And, as a community service, I want to remind everyone that the Westport Police Dept. has a program in place, “Project Lifesaver,” which was funded by the Westport Woman’s Club “Ruegg Grant” in 2008. If you have a family member who you wish to protect from such an occurrence as the Brannigan family experienced, there is a tracking bracelet that can be worn which would enable the Police Dept. to locate the missing person very quickly, if necessary. This program has been in use throughout the country with great success and is available here in Westport.

    • For readers outside of Westport, the Alzheimer’s Association has a service called Comfort Zone which has both a GPS bracelet and a monitor that can be mounted in a car.

      From personal experience, there is little scarier than when a loved one with dementia goes missing. We were so relieved to learn that Mr. Brannigan was located and safe.

  8. The Brannigans are one of the great Westport Families. Great to hear of the safe return. Thanks for thanking the community – but we should all be thanking you for all you have done for this town. Hang in there.

  9. So glad you found him! And thank you for writing this, it moved me very deeply.