Thursday, February 23, 2017

Fated, Faithful, Fatal

Now Playing: Marilyn Manson - Fated, Faithful, Fatal and Fall of the House of Death

Quick early note: I was having trouble coming up with a title for this post before borrowing the name of a song in The Pale Emperor album. Thought I'd share that bit.

I've mentioned before that whenever I'm on road trips or staying at hotels, I tend to read up on crimes (past, present, solved, ongoing, etc) to traumatize myself and make me fear the road and strangers and never coming home again.

Well Red and I drove to Key West on Saturday just for funzies (but did not get to go to the Earnest Hemingway House because we forgot to bring cash), so on the ride there, I pulled up the FBI site.

I've done it before. On occasion I like to check the FBI's wanted lists to see what's changed, what's been updated, and generally for any new faces/cases. The Ten Most Wanted Fugitives is often the one people think about, but I tend to gravitate to kidnapping/missing person cases as well as the general Seeking Information list.

I find them significantly more disturbing, as they hit a more personal note than, say, fearing a wanted terrorist.

I've noted that Natalee Holloway is listed under the Seeking Information list and not the Kidnapping & Missing Persons list despite the fact that Amy Lynn Bradely is in the latter and there's the belief (at least to us in the public; authorities can and do know more information not available to us) that the two could have been victims of human trafficking. Natalee's profile also contains the disclaimer that no one has been charged with her kidnapping as there's no real hard evidence to suggest foul play happened to cause her disappearance. Therefore, coming forth with information is not an admission of guilt. Is it because of that disclaimer that Natalee is in that list? And why was she declared dead in absentia despite the fact that she disappeared in 2005 when so many other missing person cases can remain open for decades on end?

There's a lot I don't know, as you can tell. Maybe because I don't necessarily delve in to all the conspiracy theories and documents. Mostly I just tread the water.

Anyways, while looking through the Missing Persons list, I found the case of Michaela Garecht, a victim of kidnapping.

I remember once watching an interview done by the parents of Madeleine Mccann where her mother, Kate, mentioned how frustrating it was that people so often criticized them for the circumstances surrounding Madeliene's disappearance. To an extent, I can't help but sympathize with those criticisms. As an outsider I think, "well what the fuck were you thinking, leaving your kids sleeping in a hotel room, in a foreign country, with the door unlocked, while you dined elsewhere?" It's a knee-jerk reaction that hits me whenever I read about someone being kidnapped for accepting a ride with someone--family friend, stranger, etc--like in the Ariel Castro kidnappings. My brain goes, "but why didn't you know better?"

But (and I'm sure I also discussed this before) why should I fault people--especially children--who can't help but believe in the good of others? That's my mindset most often, after all. The crimes committed are not in any way their fault.

Plus, it's not like I haven't made choices that could have had terrible outcomes. I went to Red's dorm room the same day we met. I got in an Uber with him and his roommate and hung out with them for hours with the door closed/locked in a mostly vacant building. His roommate and I had this conversation while we were both lying down, me on Red's bed, roommate on his own bed:

Him: I can't believe you trusted us not to murder you.
Me: I can't believe you trusted me not to murder you.

It's also unfair of me to be critical because it can so often be unavoidable.

Jaycee Lee Dugard didn't get into a stranger's vehicle; the car pulled up while she was in view of her school bus and she was paralyzed with a taser before being grabbed. Jacob Wetterling was biking with friends in broad daylight before a man with a gun terrorized them and took him. And poor Michaela was also with a friend, during the day, retrieving a scooter from a parking lot, when a man nearby threw her into his car and drove away.

I felt for her and her parents, as I often do in these cases. But it didn't hit me fully until I discovered her mother keeps a blog--updated often, nearly three decades after the disappearance--titled Dear Michaela.

I haven't read all the entries, but I am trying to, slowly. I've seen a lot of interviews and read from people who've lost family members to cases of kidnapping and murder, but they haven't lessen the impact of reading Sharon's posts. I want to talk about all of them but they touch upon so much that it's better if you just take the plunge for yourself.

I always wonder about the families of missing victims. Time becomes so warped when you try and consider what it feels like to have someone you love disappear for years and years. It must be a void that stretches to eternity, there for every birthday, every holiday, every milestone of life. And in the little moments too: washing dishes, driving to work, seeing friends. I try my hardest to imagine it but of course it's impossible for me to comprehend.

Sharon touches on a lot of subjects. Faith, memory, love, pain. One I found particularly fascinating is about the actual events of that day. Sharon remembers so much of it in detail, as does Michaela's friend, Trina, who witnessed the kidnapping. But they also mention how sometimes the memories are warped; by retellings or by the reenactments done in public television. For years Sharon believed Michaela was grabbed immediately by the kidnapper, but in a conversation with Trina, she states that it's possible Michaela did speak briefly with the kidnapper.

It's a little detail but it carries a lot of weight because it's the last time anyone can think of Michaela concretely.

Another post of hers (talking about the aforementioned Jacob Wetterling case) also discusses the suspect. There's no doubt in her mind that Michaela suffered after being kidnapped. We know what so often happens to children who are taken. But Sharon also admits that she's never quite given the suspect as much thought as she does to Michaela. To an extent, it might not even matter if he's brought to justice so long as Michaela comes home.

I'm going to quote extensively from it:

. . . I realize how little thought I have actually given to the man who kidnapped Michaela. I can't recall spending even a small amount of time hoping to find him and bring him to justice. Every bent of my mind has been always and only been on finding Michaela. I would have approved the same deal that Jacob's family approved, that Jacob's killer will go to prison for 20 years on other charges, but will face none for Jacob in exchange for his confession and providing the location of his remains. We can't ignore the kidnappers. We can't say, let him go free, because we have a responsibility to the other children in the world, to keep them safe. But from the start I went on television and begged the kidnapper, "Please, just drop her off somewhere and go away. We don't care about you. We only want our daughter back." There was nothing else I wanted and no price I wouldn't have paid to get it. Today I would say the same if she was alive.  
I might say the same if she is not alive, just for someone to tell me what happened to her, and where she is. A number of times I have been faced with the possible location of Michaela's remains, and I have thought about her little bones being touched by the sunshine for the first time in years, and it has meant more to me that you might guess, not just in solving the mystery, having a "resolution." In my heart, even if just bones, my little girl had been lying alone, and lonely, for all that time, and I wanted to just throw myself on those little bones and hold them and cry and cry and cry.  
The place where Jacob was found was green, and sheltered by trees. But it was lonely.

It got me thinking...

You can find the same sentiment in the writing of many families in similar situations. Take for example Amy Lynn Bradely's page. Her family has this message for her captors:


The part of me that's unattached and that wants to be logical without being emotional says the same as Sharon, " but won't we want to capture those people? So they'll never again hurt someone else?"

I use to hear often about that thought experiment involving railway tracks. One person is tied to one set of tracks, five people are tied to another. A trolley is coming and you have a choice--pull the lever and have the trolley hit one person, or do nothing and have it hit five people.

To really test your morality, the variations of the test I've heard get more complicated: what if the one person is someone you know and love? What if the five people are criminals? On and on it goes.

I think people choose to believe they'd be logical about it and select that which is more beneficial to society or that which is considered the better choice from a morality standpoint. (The individual may be important to you, but those five people have loved ones and lives that matter too).

But I think it's naive to pretend I wouldn't save my brother, my parents, my best friends, or my boyfriend over the lives of five strangers. It wouldn't be an easy choice and it might destroy part of me in some way, but I wouldn't be able to do anything else. (Hell, not to trivialize the lives of real people with a fictional example, but I made a similar choice in Life is Strange. Even pixels I've formed emotional connections to matter to me).

I don't know if that makes me a weak, weak human or just a person who'll act based on love. But it does mean I can't quite impart judgement on those who would choose the same or who would choose differently. It all hurts, in the end. But it's worth discussing.

Anyways. The one thing that lingers the most about Sharon's entries is that she often ends them with the same message for Michaela: she's loved, she's missed, please come home.

Maybe she will some day. I can only wish that it doesn't hurt Sharon to hold onto hope.
"Science and science fiction have done a kind of dance over the last century... The scientists make a finding. It inspires science fiction writers to write about it, and a host of young people read the science fiction and are excited, and inspired to become scientists...which they do, which then feeds again into another generation of science fiction and science..."
- Carl Sagan, in his message to future explorers of Mars.