BAILEYVILLE, Maine — Little Hope Lillian Trott got up in the middle of the night and, thinking that her mom was at the store picking up a pizza, went out looking for her.
The toddler, who just turned 3 last week, put on a pair of little ruby red shoes, threw her jacket on over her nightdress, and went out the front door without a sound.
She walked, in 29-degree temperatures, to the Woodland Food Mart IGA — about a mile away — making little footprints in the freshly fallen snow.
An employee of the store arrived around 4 a.m. to clean the floors and discovered her outside crying, Melanie Devoe, assistant store manager, said Wednesday.
“He got to the door and the little girl came walking down the sidewalk,” Devoe said. “She was crying, saying, ‘My mommy is in there.’ He knew she wasn’t because the alarm was on and the door was locked.
“He zipped her coat up, and he came in here and called 911, then went back out with her,” the assistant manager said.
Local police initially thought there had been a home invasion at Trott’s home, Baileyville Police Chief Shawn Donahue said.
“We didn’t know what was going on,” the police chief said.
A police officer followed the little girl’s footprints in the snow to her home and the front door was wide open.
Guns were drawn and officers used flashlights to go through the house looking for suspects.
What they found were Hope’s parents, Laura and Jesse Trott, and her older siblings, Hunter and Ann, fast asleep in their bedrooms.
It was frightening, Laura Trott said Wednesday afternoon.
“My first thought was my house was on fire,” she said when woken by the officers.
Police had called the house and knocked on the door when they arrived, but it was so early nobody heard them, Trott said.
Trott said she was shocked to learn why the police were really there.
She and her husband are still in shock, Laura Trott said.
“There has been lots of crying, lots of tears today,” she said.
“I don’t know if she woke up in a dream and thought I went to the store to get a pizza, but she went to look for me,” the youngster’s mother said.
No one is sure exactly what time the toddler left the house.
“She opened the door without us hearing. It’s almost a mile to the store and I don’t know how she made it there.”
The grace of God is what protected her child, the mother said.
“It was God’s hand that protected her,” said the girl’s mother, whose father is pastor of the local Baptist church. “It’s an amazing story that she’s OK and nothing is wrong.”
Police first took Hope Trott to Calais Regional Hospital to be checked out after she was found. She did not suffer any ill effects from her walk, but she was very upset that her mother was not at the store, according to the police chief.
Laura Trott said that while she was en route to the hospital to pick her daughter up, the song “I Fall On My Knees” was playing on the radio and she could see her daughter’s tracks in the snow.
“Her little footprints were all along the road,” Laura Trott said. “I saw her path.”
The mother of three said she tears up every time she looks at her youngest.
The little girl and her mother returned to the store later Wednesday and the owner gave Hope a big box of Valentine’s Day chocolates, according to Devoe, the manager.
The parents since have installed a chain and deadbolt on their door to prevent a recurrence.
Trott said she wrote up a story about Wednesday’s events that she will share with her daughter when she is older.
“I titled it, ‘The Day We Found Hope,’” she said.