Every day my feeds deliver another picture of somebody who is missing. Desperate family and friends appeal to anyone who might have seen their loved one. Height, weight, age, eye and hair colour, maybe a hoody, jeans?
What were they actually wearing that day? Is their hair the same as the picture? Imagine the frantic search for a current and clear picture.
Somebody has seemingly dropped off the face of the earth, and their people don’t know what has become of them. Tragic.
Most of us don’t know this experience. For the people who are searching and not finding their world stops and they can only hope.
Like you, I look at their faces. I figure out where they went missing from. Is it near me? Have I walked by this teen girl and not recognized her? Have I driven across a bridge that the young man in this picture jumped off of and I just didn’t see him? Does the woman smiling in this photo live in fear of partner who now has her?
We ask ourselves what happened? Why are they gone? We judge them by their looks. The guy looks like a drug addict, so maybe we scroll by a little faster and don’t memorize his face. The teen girl maybe is a run away – we judge her selfie. Is it a sweet four year old and we take in every bit of their face, just in case. The old man who has clearly wandered off will be found safe, we tell ourselves.
It happens every day. The statistics from the Canadian police are stunning:
The number fluctuates every year, however, there were 78,035 persons who were reported to police as going missing in 2017. Of those reported as missing in 2017, approximately 88% were found within seven days. Generally, of those people reported missing in a given year, approximately 500 remain missing after one year.
Seven days would feel like a hellish lifetime for the parents of a missing nine year old. I feel their terror even as I read the cold statistics.
I look at these pictures and wonder if the people in them are hurting and have gone off to end it. Have they run away or made a bad choice of friends and are just partying? Have they been taken by sex traffickers or been beaten by homophobes and are lying in a ditch? These things happen to people every day and their loved ones are left wondering in their grief and fear.
Tips come in, and they hang on every one. “Yes Ma’m, we are working every lead you will just have to patient.”
The pictures, some smiling, some out of date, others so unclear you can’t make out facial features. These photos are a record of a life being lived and of all the images, one gets chosen to help find them.
We follow the stories and try to remember which one was from our area. We try to keep an eye out for children who are uncomfortable with an adult who is holding their hand. We come back over and over to the picture of a little pig tailed girl missing a tooth and holding her ice cream and we wonder what monster has taken her.
We hurt for the families who are left behind to post flyers on telephone poles and weep in the night until the police come to the door.
And when the worst happens, their corpse looks nothing like the photo.
They say it takes a village to raise a human. It also takes the collective support of one to find the one who is missing.
Doubt what I am saying? The Missing