Have you ever known anyone who went missing?
And do you know why they say “went missing?” I’ve always wondered that. Seems kind of an unusual pairing of words to me. I think it’s the use of the verb: went missing; go missing. The person that is missing is oftentimes abducted. It wasn’t their choice to “go” anywhere. So the use of the active verb kind of bothers me a bit.
I admit, I was once fixated on this mysterious topic. But that was a long time ago, when I hung around with detectives and went to morgues and wrote about murders. Before I bought books on planting herbs and got into identifying birds and studied gardening methods.
Maybe it’s because my family “went missing” before I ever really knew them. So I always kind of felt like odd man (woman) out when people spoke of their family. Which is probably why I’m scouring the internet for this the week before Thanksgiving. You get my drift.
I guess everyone has heard stories of: “so and so’s husband left the house to get a gallon of milk down the road and never came home.” Can you imagine what that would be like? You wait and you wait. You wonder if something bad has transpired. You wonder if he had a heart attack and is lying in the bushes someplace waiting on you to send help. You wonder if he has a secret family in another city and has finally skipped off to play daddy there, never to return. You wonder, and you wonder, and you wonder. Or at least that’s what I’d assume anyway.
You’d be amazed at how many sites there are where missing people/children are concerned. There are banners you can put on your blog/site that flashes missing people every few seconds. I’d like to say I’m big enough to put one on my blogs, but then I think I’m too chicken to have it staring me in the face all the time.
And really, that’s got to be somewhat selfish. Considering the people who are sitting at home just waiting for someone to see them on your site and say, “hey, isn’t that the guy that works down at the lumber yard?” Or: “Didn’t we see that kid with that older guy at the convenience store last weekend?”
And the mystery is all of a sudden solved. I’d like to be one of those courageous folks. Really I would. But then if he does have a second family and that’s why he’s working at the local lumberyard, that woman who still misses him and wonders where he is and if he’s still alive is going to have her heart broken.
Here’s the statistics on missing children, the most innocent of our human population, I guess you might say:
- Nearly 800,000 children younger than 18 are missing each year, or an average of 2,185 children reported missing each day.
- More than 200,000 children were abducted by family members.
- More than 58,000 children were abducted by non-family members.
- 115 children were the victims of “stereotypical” kidnapping. These crimes involve someone the child does not know or a slight acquaintance who holds the child overnight, transports the child 50 miles or more, kills the child, demands ransom, or intends to keep the child permanently.
I can’t imagine anything more horrifying. You’re at the weekend farmer’s market with your four year old. You see the best looking tomatoes. You let go of his/her hand for just a minute, so that you can pick a few up and look for blemishes. You’re thinking about lunch and how good a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich would taste. Iced tea. Some cake for dessert. You turn around, and he/she is gone. Gone.
Your heart skips a beat, and then starts racing. That rush of adrenalin that is primordial. You call his/her name. Then you start screaming it. People start looking your way. They get the message. The crowd that was looking at vegetables and fruit just like you were a moment ago are now running in all directions, looking. Getting the word out. The crowd becomes a jumbled scene of people stopping and starting, trying to think where to look. Staring into every face, wondering: “Did you take that child? Are you a monster?” Is there a pedophile in their midst? A person that looks ordinary just like them but has whisked a child into the trunk of his car and is already blocks down the road?
Okay, down to the nitty gritty. The reason I am so mesmerized by all this. I once stood in the room of a girl that has never been found. She was barely 13. She would be 44 now. At the time, it had been about three years since she disappeared.
I am haunted by that room. The bed all made up. The photos staring at me from framed glass. The things a 13 year old girl in that day and age had in her room. The stuffed animals. Oh geez, those stuffed animals are the worst. You never can wash your mind of them. You just can’t.
The presents stacked up. Every birthday and Christmas since she’d been gone. Hoping one day she’ll come home and open them.
The murdered children won’t leave you either. Once you dig into the case and memorize every fact and write about it. But, horrible as it is, from a writer’s standpoint, at least you have a period at the end of the sentence that tells where they now are. You visit their graves, and there’s at least a feeling of closure.
But the ones that are missing, I think about every year on the anniversary. I figure the family, the ones I interviewed, many are dead and gone now. The house may have been sold and the room finally taken apart. The last vestiges of her are probably finally gone. Except in that corner of my mind where the memory of her still resides.
On this cold gray November day, I went online to the data banks and looked her up. To see if there was any information I didn’t have. There wasn’t. And I looked into her 13 year old face as I have countless times over the years.
But there was something I hadn’t seen before. An age progression. What she would look like now.
In the grainy progression photo, conjured up by some computer program, she was the spitting image of her mother.