On child abductions and happy endings

As a wire copy editor, I’ve spent a lot of time over the last couple of days reading about the case in Cleveland of three women who were held for more than a decade. As a newspaper journalist, I don’t usually get mushy over news. I get angry, frustrated, sad and more sad, but I don’t get sentimental. But there’s just something about this one.

The horror of what these women — children, then women — went through is incomprehensible. I can’t pretend to know what they have gone or will go through. Of course, they’ll need very good psychiatric care probably for the rest of their lives, and I hope they will have good access to it.

But what strikes me the most is the happiness of the reunions. Imagine (and again, I can’t, really) what these parents and siblings are feeling. It’s akin to someone coming back from the dead. While these families never really got closure, they likely had resigned themselves to the likelihood that they would never speak to their daughters/sisters again.

Having lost my mother to a sudden heart attack, I know what instant loss feels like. It’s like someone took a chunk of your own body. It sucks unbearably.

These families had it even harder because the young girls weren’t killed, they were taken. They had to hope they were alive but realistically believe they were dead. Kind of an awful purgatory for a decade.

Imagine you’ve lost someone close with no idea what happened to her and 10 years later, you get a call from the police telling you that the person you lost so suddenly is alive. And you can see him or her soon. What would you say?

If that happened with my mother, I think I’d just tell my mom over and over that I love her and that I missed her. The rest is just details. Unfortunately, that won’t happen.

But in Cleveland, I imagine these young women are getting a heaping dose of love right now. As it should be. I picture them sitting in their homes, talking to their families, telling them things — but nothing too harsh, nothing that they couldn’t handle. Not the deep, dark scars that will be imbedded deep into their psyches. Just family getting to know each other again. Learning to trust, catching up on family gossip.

Nothing can make up for the time and childhood these young women lost. I hope they get some fun in their lives, though right now the light of day, adequate food and support  and not being raped is probably a good start.

I’m also reminded of the families of other missing children. Those who will never see their children again. We’ve had a few good news cases in which the children do come home: Elizabeth Smart, Jaycee Dugard and others. But most will not. Most families will never know the truth, never be able to hug their children again. The thought is inconceivable to me.

Most people will tell you, “If I ever lost a child, I’d die.” No, you wouldn’t. You’d keep on living, one day after the next, but a light would be turned off forever. A chunk of your soul gone. Just as with any loss, you move on, though maybe a little slower.

I’m glad that these women made it out. I’m so happy for them and their families.  I hope they get everything they need and want out of the rest of their lives.

As a journalist, I’m glad to see a rare happy ending.

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