On 3 May 2007 a little girl disappeared just days before her fourth birthday. She was last seen in her parent’s hotel room in Portugal with her two siblings, fraternal twins just two years old at the time.
The parents were having dinner in a restaurant just fifty yards from the room and were checking on the children frequently. A good deal was made at the time about parental neglect, but the truth is the parents were no farther away than many parents might be in a large house.
The story is back in the news this week, along with “age progressed” images of the little girl, and images of possible suspects that are bland enough to be mistaken for a large segment of the population.
In the six years since her disappearance, many other children have disappeared most of whom you’ve never heard of. It’s difficult to get statistics for Europe, but in America one number is 800,000 a year. That number includes all the children who are late returning from visiting a non-custodial parent, or have run away from home for a night. 58,000 a year were non-family abductions, and 115each year fit the category of “stereotypical kidnappings”, defined as “a nonfamily abduction perpetrated by a slight acquaintance or stranger in which a child is detained overnight, transported at least 50 miles, held for ransom or abducted with the intent to keep the child permanently, or killed”. That’s just in America, seven hundred children kidnapped in six years. Plus the family abductions in which the chilren are not recovered.
In Europe, jurisdictional differences make tracing missing persons over national borders much more difficult than the state lines of America, and cultural differences make determining the actual number of missing persons next to impossible.
So what makes Madeline McCann so special that the search for her is on the news in America, across the ocean from her last sighting? I’ve no idea. If telling her story makes one parent more aware of the possibility, and prevents just one disappearance, it is a worthwhile story. According to statistics, children still missing after thirty days are almost certainly dead. But a parent never gives up hope.
Fifty five years ago, just prior to my birth, Myrisha and A.J. Jr. Campbell, ages three years and 11 months, were picked up by their father (A.J. Campbell Sr.) in Goliad, TX. What happened after that is less than certain, other than the fact that at 0200 the next morning A.J. Sr. ended his life.
The children’s mother never gave up looking, and since her death in February her family, led by her son from a second marriage, have continued pursuing every avenue in the search for some closure.
There are several horrible aspects to these stories, the immediate effects on the child, the impact on the family, and extended family, for years afterward. The feeling of helplessness when a child is involved, tears a heart apart, particularly for the parent who is responsible for the child. But the important thing to remember is that no one other than the abductor is responsible for missing children. Steps can be taken towards safety, but there are no guarantees.
Don’t lose track of what’s important to you. Tomorrow is uncertain, give all your love today.