If the Internet has done nothing else it has given new life to dead hope. Once the parents of missing children could fight hard to find their missing offspring but the window closed slowly upon the searchers and unless the child was found quickly, or a perpetrator accused soon, then the police activity would decrease by degrees and finally all but stop.
Very few of us would remember Elizabeth Ann Gill, a two year old who disappeared from her from yard in 1965, but I read a story about a missing child, and that lead to a link about Gill, and here you are, reading about a child you may have never heard of before. What are the odds that Gill was kidnapped, taken in by some stranger, raised and then lived to see the sun come up today, and perhaps see thing, and wonder? Who out there questions the story of their birth? Is there someone out there even now who is sitting there and now realizes they might be one of the missing, and might actually be Elizabeth Gill?
I know it is unlikely, but unlikely too is a child being snatched by a stranger in 1965. In 1992 a man called his wife to report their seven month old daughter had been taken, and the story slowly unfolded into a case of murder after a year or so. That happened here in Georgia and there was nothing about the story I believed at all. The father of the child looked and acted guilty. The police slowly wore him down and finally he confessed he had “accidently” killed the child and then hid the body in a state of panic. Does this sound familiar to you? How many times has this story be repeated? The parents are not always guilty, don’t get me wrong, but in so many cases where there is a story of some stranger who has taken a child and gone, the parents are the last to see the child alive.
The murder of JonBenét Ramsey was a classic case where everyone knew, they just knew, the parents had done it, and now the evidence suggests they did not. But the pendulum swings both ways. The Georgia case was one where the father of the child was a low life red neck uneducated beer swilling hick who seemed to have the same nurturing skills as most Cottonmouths. The Ramey’s were well off but their damning trait was to parade their poor daughter around in beauty contests, made up to look like a miniature woman, and I suspect that attracted the wrong sort of attention, but really, what in the hell do you expect out of that sort of activity? Dress your toddler up as a tramp and when she goes missing you might wonder why everyone on earth thinks you killed her.
Those two cases were solved or at least resolved to the point there was a body recovered. Yet Elizabeth Gill’s family knows no closure. Every woman stopping to ask for directions or selling Avon, or just passing by their house slowly is a possibility and a reopening of a wound that will never truly heal. The days turn into weeks, the weeks into months and the month into years. Birthday come and go without a trace, without a sign, and like water leaking out of a bucket a drop at a time, public interest wanes. The people down the street go away from a weekend instead of looking. A week later the next door neighbors take a day or two off to do some shopping for their kids. A month later and one of the local deputies goes on vacation. The parents still frantic search areas searched before and they search there again and again. The River must have gotten here, people tired of looking say, and this gives them the opportunity to tell their own kids not to play near the water, and it gives them an out to stop looking. A two year old will not be found alive if she wondered off by herself, no, not after this amount of time, and if she was taken…
There is a certain sense of disbelief that I have when it comes to missing children. Perhaps this stems from the world in which I grew up, a very small town, where everyone knew everyone else, and how closely I was watched, not only by my mother and father, but by everyone else’s mother and father, and all the neighbors as well. Anyone with a phone and some idle time would report to a parent the location of a child or a group of children, and sometimes it was enough just to be away from the house long enough to be missed to be called in again. Infants never toddled off alone, and we older kids kept out eyes on the younger ones like eyes were kept upon us. It was a much simpler and safer time, but it was also the time in which Elizabeth Gill went missing in a small town.
We have to live with the idea there are monsters out there. Elizabeth Smart can tell you about that, and honestly, it is a miracle her abductor did not kill her. Sometimes the taken are returned, never unharmed, never unchanged, but returned nevertheless and those parents can begin to live their lives again. Yet the parents of Elizabeth Gill if they still live, and those parents who children are missing they wait too. There might be some wild hope, some joyous reunion but each year the lines in the mirror say no, and each year passes and one day they realize their child is no longer two or three or four, but twenty- two or twenty-three, or twenty-four, and even if that child is still alive the childhood is forever lost. Elizabeth Gill, or whoever she is known as now, might one day realize she is not who she is supposed to be and may simply chose to accept her life as is, regardless of the past. That might be very rare, very rare indeed, but a child being taken by a stranger is rare too.
I cannot help but feel the ache of an ill healed scar when I read about a child gone. Somewhere out there are parents, monsters, accidents, and the missing.