Everyone reads the headlines when a body is recovered or remains are found. Like rubber necks at an accident scene, we want to know what happened and why in all the grisly details. The media covers the scene, hovering around like bees to honey trying to get the inside scoop and be the first to report along with pictures and video. A body is brought forth, identified and justice is served. As if reality was that simple!
When it comes to missing persons, in most cases, headlines aren't screaming, the public gives a cursory look and then goes on to then next page. The news is covered with the young, blond white girls from good families and the talk shows are brimming with family members eager to be a part of something that may give their loved one the exposure needed to remind us not to forget. It looks like these missing persons are getting much deserved coverage, but what is reported is only the tip of the iceberg.
The general public has no clue of the scope of this global epidemic. According to figures from the FBI, there are almost a million missing persons reported each year. That number is growing year by year. How does this happen? How can that many people be unaccounted for? Yes, many are teen runaways, many are just looking to start a new life, but many more are never found until it's too late. Human trafficking and sex slavery is now coming into the forefront of the news as more and more young people and children are vanishing without a trace.
What's Going On In Chicago?
Recently the case of 12 year old Chicago girl, Jahmeshia Connor, who was found dead in an alley after being missing almost two weeks, has sparked a flame under Chicago media. After facts of the case were brought to light by online writers, it seems the media is reporting one missing person after another from the Chicago area. Is it a coincidence? If it had not been for the watchful eyes of Susan Murphy Milano, and organizations like Peas in Their Pods, LostNMissing, Inc., Peace4 the Missing, Please Help Missing Children and others, Jahmeshia Connor and those that have followed may have been relegated to nothing but a report filed by the family.
Who has been searching for these girls? Some of them have been missing quite some time, longer than would be expected, and some families did not file missing persons reports immediately, some probably following the advice of a police officer that told them to wait and see. THERE IS NO WAIT AND SEE WHEN A PERSON IS MISSING! The public's misconception is there is a mandatory waiting period, that is false. All police departments are to take a missing persons report on the spot, with the facts stated by those who know the person and the circumstances of their disappearance best. Time is always of the essence.
Myths and Legends
There is also a definite misconception in the way most parents view the nation wide Amber Alert. Most think that if their child is missing all they do is dial 911 and it's issued. That's another myth. There are strict guidelines that must be followed and criteria that must be met before an Amber Alert is issued. Many children do not qualify. Many missing children fall through the cracks of the system and families are disappointed, rightly so. This gap in the system has forced organizations like Peas In Their Pods to generate the "Rilya Alert" when a child is missing. Regardless of age, sex, ethnicity, or circumstances, as long as a police report has been filed, a Rilya Alert will go out, indicating to a growing network to get the word out and find this child!
Cases of missing adults present an even more complicated set of predicaments. The circumstances of an adult going missing varies more than child abductions or teen runaways. An adult has the right to leave a family and start a new life, as unfair as this sounds, there is nothing a spouse or children can do about it according to the laws of the day. This makes filing a report and expecting an investigation by authorities redundant. In most cases a family member has to take on the task of investigating and tracking down their missing adult.
Yes, They Care
So who really cares about missing persons? Fortunately for family members there are organizations like CUE Center for Missing Persons, Project Jason, 411 Gina, Track Missing, Texas Equusearch and others who devote time and resources to step in and search. Searching for a missing person is only one facet of the tasks these organizations perform. They work closely with the law enforcement agents in charge, they organize posters and awareness campaigns, they comfort and support the families, often at their own expense. They train search and recovery teams, both human and animals, to perform the job of bringing a loved one back to the family that cares for them.
Even if we don't have a missing loved one, how long does it take to stop, take a harder look at a poster hanging in a store or on a telephone pole? Everyone can do a small part in aiding these families by paying attention, look at a situation that isn't right, and do something to correct it.
Laws are being presented to Congress that will insure that missing persons cases will be handled in a more uniform manner. By supporting the passage of The Help Find The Missing Act (HR3695 Billy's Law) we are showing our support for the families of missing loved ones. We are also giving a name to the thousands of unidentified remains that are housed all over the country and reconnecting them with their families.
When a person goes missing there are so many victims. A whole family, a whole community and a whole country are subjected to the fears, anxieties, and worries about a person who is gone. Who really cares about a missing person? Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends, and many, many strangers who step up daily to help and support.
CUE Center's website says it best: "Every missing person is somebody's child."