Tuesday, April 24, 2012

V is for...


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.

Thanks Carrie!
Typically it is seven years before a missing person can legally be pronounced dead.  You can read about that here.
Questions?  Comments?  
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!


  1. That continues to be such a sad case. I cannot even imagine how I would ever breath if I had no idea what happened to my child.

  2. My first point of call today is a little off topic.

    As we near the end of the A to Z, I just wanted to say this is my favourite blog. Nowhere else has had me laughing, podering, near to tears and provoked so much thought.

    So a massive thank you for making the AtoZ bearable.

    On-Topic: I'll relate this to perception. I find it so odd how different your perceptions change when you become a parent.

    Before having kids, I hated kidnappers, paedos and rapists. Prior, I couldn't imagine the feelings, that come with reading a newspaper story of some sicko abusing a child, ever changing.

    How could you hate a type of person more?

    As it turns out, my perception of what hate was isn't what it is today. Today, hate is too weak of a word. Loath, detest, even terrify is most accurate post having kids.

    My overly long point here, is that the idea of my children being taken from me, somewhat terrifies me more than them "D-word-ing."

    Personally I try my best to look at these pictures we see. Not because I ever think I'll find a missing child, but if it happened to me, that extra 0.00000001% would mean the world to me.


    1. Thank you Wes. Seriously. Some days I wonder why I even bother writing and then someone says something genuinely nice and it gives me the motivation to sit my butt down and write something else.
      I used to work in a jail (four gloriously bad months) and my job was to fetch things for the inmates. I didn't really have a problem with any of them, but they housed the sex offenders all together and they creeped me out. Looking at them, you'd never know (ya know, no trench coat or creepy face) and that's what scared the hell out of me. Maybe that's why I'm such a helicopter parent. Here in the states, a child molester doesn't get much time if they are caught and that is unbelievable to me, as they have the highest recidivism rates.
      I was recently asked to participate in a "stranger danger" thing at my kids' school. It saddens me that we have to have programs like that.

  3. Hi all -- Wes, I hear you ... Sometimes I pass little ones on the street and feel moved to say a prayer for their protection. I can only hope that other strangers do the same for my future kids... Carrie

  4. I just read on the news about Maddie McCann and that they think she is alive. Remember this case? She went missing while her parents were on vacation?
    Just thought that was kind of weird that it happened today when the word was vanish. Hopefully she reappears.

  5. What a great post and piece today.
    I am so much the opposite. I study those pictures, wondering if I've seen someone who resembles the missing child in my little town.
    Pam, I read about Maddie McCann, too. That is a bit strange given your post today.

    1. I know. It was a little odd. And she's British! And I'm huge in the UK:)

      Okay, on a serious note, there was a news story awhile back about a guy who saw this other guy grab a little girl and take off with her in his van. Well,this dude hopped into his truck and followed the guy and ran him off the road and the girl was returned safely home. I totally loved that story. That's the kind of stuff we need to hear about. The average everyday citizen who does something totally kick butt to help save a kid. I hope that guy got keys to the city or something really cool to honor his bravery. Most people don't want to get involved or they think,well maybe that's her Dad and I shouldn't get involved. I don't know why I went off on this tangent.

  6. I'm with Wes! I LOVE your blog - you are interesting and funny. Amazon loves you too b/c I buy the books you recommend ( I do often sell them back as used so that helps my budget).
    As for "vanished" - scary stuff. I remember a good friend really creeped me out one time as she was watching my kids (who were about 3 and 5 at the time) playing together. In all seriousness, she told me I needed to be extra careful with them and the public b/c they were engaging kids and someone might steal them. I was scared of that then for several years (then they turned into gawky pre teens...)

    1. Gee, I feel so flattered! Seriously. What the heck am I going to do when Z hits?

      Have you read "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks?" That's a another good one. Not a "death" book, but the more I think about it, it kind of is.

      I am currently reading a children's Bible from the 60's.

    2. Did you recommend that book to Matt? He told me to read it but I haven't yet. He said it was great. A children's bible from the 60's? I think I have an old one too, just not sure it is that old. I'll have to look for it.

    3. I probably did. It is a very interesting book about cells. Doesn't sound like it would be interesting, but the writer handled it really well. I think Oprah is turning it into a movie.

      I'm reading a children's Bible because I can't understand the regular one:)


Comments are welcome and appreciated!