IT takes a village to raise a child, as the saying goes. But when a child goes missing, it takes more than a village; it takes more than a community to bring such a horrible incident to a good ending.
I like to write fun features about my life as a guest in Malaysia and KL specifically. Clicks to the NST Opinions webpage confirm that my readers like those best, too. Well, unfortunately, today this isn’t one of them.
Undoubtedly one of the most famous, or rather infamous, cases of a missing child in the world’s living memory must have been the one dating back to March 1, 1932.
Charles Augustus Lindbergh Jr, the 20-month-old son of American aviator Charles Lindbergh, was abducted from his crib in his family home of New Jersey, USA.
The case gained such worldwide notoriety that even Agatha Christie used this tragic event as an inspiration for her novel Murder on the Orient Express, which was published only two years later.
Criminological tactics, forensics and communication technology have all evolved greatly since the early 20th century. And yet, children still vanish without a trace today.
Many go virtually unnoticed by the public at large, and I can’t even begin to imagine what families must endure when they not only face the most gruesome anguish of their lives but also feel left alone in their pain.
The most recent case of a young Irish girl gone missing at the Dusun resort near Seremban has attracted international interest from the media, both professional as well as social.
That’s probably a good thing. At the same time, it is a double-edged sword. The parents of young Nora Anne Quoirin have made a statement thanking all involved parties for their overwhelming support and willingness to help.
There is nothing like international pressure to make the wheels of government institutions turn faster. On the other hand, such public interest also attracts all kinds of unwanted attention. The result is usually an additional burden on both the family and the investigating teams.
The search for baby Lindbergh almost a century ago was made close to impossible once self-declared ‘experts’ started to get too close to the action, trample evidence and insist on the importance of all sorts of dead-end leads.
Having said that, I know from experience how difficult it is to try and do the right thing in such a situation.
Quite a few years ago, a little boy was abducted in plain sight of his classmates in front of my children’s school. As a community, we were put on high alert. We all wanted, no, we all needed to help, and we tried our best.
Armed with hundreds of posters, we marched all over town to raise awareness by hanging up photographs of the missing child.
I vividly remember the feeling of utter frustration with shopkeepers and gas station managers who refused to comply or tore down the poster as soon as I had left their premises. “What if this was your child?” I thought and sometimes said out loud.
But I also remember being moved to tears by toll plaza attendants and grocery store employees who asked for more copies to distribute to the public. “This could just as well have been my child,” one gentleman told me.
Some of us tried to raise awareness. Some of us held candlelight vigils outside the distraught parents’ house. Others discussed the option of an Amber Alert-style system to be implemented. Many sent thoughts and prayers.
In the end, none of it made a difference. The boy was found and returned into his mother’s arms thanks to solid investigative police work.
Maybe helped along to some degree by pressure from the public, diplomatic channels and the media.
What it did do, however, is to give our community a feeling of empowerment.
The conviction to fight the good fight, maybe even some degree of righteousness.
As we are yet again staring into the emotional abyss that the case of a missing child evokes, I can’t help but wonder, how do we get involved? What is too much? What is not enough?
I do hope from the bottom of my heart that Irish teen Nora Anne will have been found by the time this article is published and we won’t need to ask ourselves these questions.
At least not until the next time a child goes missing.