Claudia was a year and a half younger than me–an assistant editor for Frommer’s Travel Guides who went missing from Beaches Negril in Jamaica in May 2000.
She wasn’t supposed to be in Jamaica–the business trip was originally to visit a Sandals resort in Cuba. But something had happened and the group was diverted to Jamaica to await flights back home to the U.S., which weren’t available for a couple days.
One morning she went out for a walk on the beach…and vanished without a trace.
Mind you, she was a seasoned traveler who knew how to handle herself in foreign places. And yet she’s never been found, thanks to the idiocy of hotel staff and local authorities.
Then Washington, D.C. intern Chandra Levy disappeared in the summer of 2001. The case drew a lot of national media attention because of her affair with Congressman Gary Condit, but as a former Capitol Hill intern and staffer who was still living in the D.C. area, it hit home for me.
And after she went missing I’d actually keep my eyes open for her as I commuted by bike up and down the path between Georgetown and Bethesda–since it seemed like as good a place as any to dump a body.
(Of course, if I’d actually seen her I would have totally freaked out…after all, the freaking Wizard of Oz used to give me horrible nightmares. But looking out for her made me feel like I was helping in some little way.)
Unlike Claudia, Chandra was found–a year later. And someone was finally convicted in 2010, although I strongly believe they have the wrong guy. But that’s a story for another day…
I’m sure I don’t need to rehash the details of that story. I was pretty much obsessed with it–spending hours checking news coverage and blogs to see what the latest news was because I was convinced she’d be found at any moment. After all, it’s not that big an island, right?
Even though I was much older than Natalee, her disappearance really struck a chord in me. Because when it came down to it, all she did was make a bad judgment call.
And haven’t we all done that?! Situations we look back on now and think, “How could I have been so stupid? Thank God nothing bad happened!”
Like the time my friend and I accepted a ride back to our hotel from two French guys we’d just met at a bar in Paris. There, but for the grace of God…
Risky or dumb decisions–they’re a part of learning process of growing up. You’re supposed to end up hung over or embarrassed or healing from some minor injury–not dead.
Why I Started Missing Person Update (MPU)
While I try not to get as intensely wrapped up in a case these days, I’m still drawn to them and wanting to do something, somehow to help. Although I recently realized that just caring helps. It helps keep these cases alive, when family members may feel the whole world has forgotten about finding and getting justice for their loved one.
And it’s one more set of eyes and ears. After all, how could you ever recognize someone if you didn’t even know who they were and that they were missing?!
What frustrates me though is trying to stay on top of all the cases.
Because one thing I’ve learned is that blogs and forums often have the best information.
In fact, I practically lived at the Scared Monkeys forum during the first year of the Holloway case because they would literally break stories BEFORE the mainstream press, thanks to forum members who were actually residents of Aruba.
And I’m so glad I learned that too because the media covers a case for several days or even weeks, then it’s off the radar. Hello? What ever happened?! Inquiring minds want to know…
There was a case a year or so ago where the mom had hired a new live-in nanny, who had taken the baby for a walk and never came back. The media covered it for a day or two and then nothing. Months later, I searched online out of curiosity and learned the girl and baby had been found within the week–the baby was fine and back home with mom.
Guess the happy endings don’t get as many ratings, huh? But they’re important to tell too…because if people feel it’s hopeless–that ALL missing cases end badly–they start tuning out. They stop paying attention and then there’s one less person who could potentially help bring someone home.
The good news is there are so many great blogs and forums doing their own sleuthing on the cases these days, and even people who are involved sometimes show up to share info. Places like Blink on Crime, Web Sleuths, Scared Monkeys and others.
The problem is, you have to wade through hundreds of messages and comments to find out what’s been going on. I couldn’t find a single place to go where you could quickly get the latest insights.
That’s why I started this blog.
Actually, there are three reasons why I started it…
1. I wanted to create a place where if you don’t haunt the missing persons sites every day, you can quickly check in to see the latest on your favorite cases…things the media isn’t saying or doesn’t even know.
2. I also wanted to have a place to discuss ideas to help stem the tide of missing kids and adults…and help bring more of them home safely.
3. But most of all, I wanted to make sure that even though they might still be missing, they’re not forgotten.
If you have thoughts, comments or suggestions, please feel free to share them!