Monday afternoon was a bit surreal for me. Scores of county police vehicles, state patrol cars, local television station trucks and equipment festooned our neck of the woods. The sounds of a low-flying helicopter were overhead. Searchers with dogs were combing backyards and nearby woods. Authorities along with community members were on the ground going door-to-door asking if they had seen a missing girl while holding up her picture. It all seemed kind of like something out of an apocalyptic film for a few hours in our neighborhood.
As we all know now, a neighborhood child went missing yesterday. Within the hour after the girl’s disappearance, social media lit up quicker than the Christmas tree at New York’s Rockefeller Center. For those who were in on Monday’s “missing girl social media thread,” the news took a few minutes to digest when first learned for myself. “Is this for real?” “Where did this happen? Is this near me?”
Who. What. When. Where. How. Why. We all ask those basic journalistic questions. Certainly a part of me is a journalist, but more importantly, I’m a neighbor and a parent just like the worried mothers and fathers who were posting about this girl’s disappearance. When I first heard of the incident in the 9 o’clock hour on social media, I pleaded with posters to get the girl’s image up as fast as possible. I forwarded the image to WSB’s Facebook page which already had the information up with solid details. WSB’s FB moderator quickly had me call one of their reporters. I then referred the reporter to a neighbor much closer to the situation. Honestly from where I was sitting, that was all I could do at that time. I felt helpless.
When I arrived home, I provided more information to the state patrol – who informed me that they just came upon the scene in the afternoon. I got into my workout clothes and paced the neighborhood – perhaps I would stumble upon something everyone else was missing. I checked my neighbor’s yard, back porch and shed. Obviously there was nothing to be found. I still felt helpless.
What made me feel comforted was how neighbors came together to search for the missing girl – on the streets, in the woods, knocking on doors, checking backyards. At that point, I realized that we were all in it together. There were images of good folks coming together, hoping, praying and wishing for a peaceful outcome. Honestly, who can ever forget authorities holding hands and praying with Peachtree Corners residents in the local church’s parking lot? Yes, that’s right: law enforcement personnel are people too. They feel victims’ pain. After seeing those images, it gave me hope that there is good in the world. At the end of the day, good triumphs over evil.
It did not take long for authorities to realize that this was not an abduction, but a possible runaway situation. That piece of information probably provided little comfort to the girl’s parents. I confess that I was still worried sick – probably like most of us who were following the situation. After all, it was still a worst nightmare scenario. We were still speaking about a petite middle school student alone in the night.
After darkness descended upon us, the search was called off. Just a few hours later, an informed and concerned neighbor found the girl walking alongside the road many of us travel in Peachtree Corners and safely returned her home. It goes without saying that this community not only cares about its citizens, but it loves its citizens. If there is anything to be learned from this incident for this girl, she must know that she is loved not only by her family, but by the community. Saying that she is loved probably sounds like sappy drivel to this girl. There’s no doubt that it will be repeated ad nauseum to her, but it is a fact.
Indeed it is human nature to ask questions as to why this happened, but frankly this situation reverts back to a private family matter. Now, it’s time for the family to heal and the rest of us, to take deep breaths and for many of us to say, “Amen.”