For the letter V, I have invited my friend and Goucher College classmate to write a wee bit about vanishing. Carrie knows a lot about this subject as she is the author of we is got him (The Overlook Press, 2011), the narrative nonfiction account of the first recorded ransom kidnapping in American history. Not only is Carrie a kick butt writer and researcher, she has been a wonderful support person for me. (Writers sometimes need cheerleaders, and on occasion, Carrie waves the pom-poms for me when I want to throw in the towel.)
So, without further babbling on my part, here's Carrie...
|Photo pulled from philly.com|
Our collective pulse rises when we hear about a missing child. We are desensitized, many of us, to news of crimes against adults. But word of a missing child – anybody’s child – brings us pain. Why else do we look away from the faces posted on bulletin boards, containers or telephone poles?
When we see the word “Missing” on a flyer, we know that a picture will haunt us if we choose to look. Because a disappearance isn’t a death – it could be, but it might not be. Fiction is full of characters whose disappearances involve pilgrimages and quests for truth and justice. But as much as our culture is obsessed with the intersection of fantasy and reality, we know that sometimes the Dark Lord wins. Fearing the worst, we try our best to believe in fairy godmothers.
Faith in life, however, doesn’t offer the closure that death does. In 2001, a judge gave Stanley Patz that closure when he declared his son Etan, missing since 1979, legally dead. The re-emergence of Etan’s story in the press this week has sparked renewed interest in his family, who live in the same SoHo neighborhood as they did when their little boy disappeared. Eleven years after a judge pronounced Etan Patz legally dead, reporters are asking his parents to comment on new investigative leads. It seems to me that such public interest threatens any closure that the family has found. But that’s really none of my business, is it? Certainly the Patzes are defined by more than Etan’s death and stronger than society’s narrative gives them credit for.
What is my concern is my response to Etan’s legacy, the faces below signs of the “Missing.” If I vanish before their pictures, I am denying them my observations, my prayers, my faith in a closure to their stories.
Typically it is seven years before a missing person can legally be pronounced dead. You can read about that here.
If you like this, please share it on twitter, facebook, or print it for your 79 year old mother who doesn't own a computer. Thanks!