“Missing” in California

Hi hfyystyihn
Readers — While this letter is not about children, it reminds us to resist “worst-first” thinking: automatically thinking up the worst possible case scenario FIRST (usually involving crime and depravity), and assuming it’s the most likely story. Life is, thank goodness, usually duller than that.

That being said, I am still very sorry to hear about the 19-year-old.  – L.

Dear Free-Range Kids: I know this isn’t exactly a “Free-Range” issue but I think it’s related and relevant in the “stranger-danger” paranoid world we live in, and thought you’d be interested.

This week there has been a fire-storm going on-line about two missing women in Lake Tahoe here in CA. All the talk about “the world we live in today,” “no woman is safe,” “it’s getting worse,” was overwhelming and quite disturbing.

The first is 19-year-old Alyssa Byrne, missing since New Year’s Eve. Her body was found Friday 1/4. Reports say she had been drinking (it was a big music festival, some called it a “rave”), walked off a snowy path and fell off a 10’ snow bank.  Authorities say there is no evidence of foul play.

The second is 21-year-old Chantel Good, reported missing on 1/2, found 1/3, unharmed and not abducted. Apparently she wasn’t actually “missing” but they won’t release any details.

Before they were found, I saw comments about “women are being stalked and abducted” and “we have to do something about all of these lunatics.”  But, as it turned out, there was no abductor nor any lunatics, just a tragic accident and an adult being incognito for a day.

It is “the world we live in today” when people’s first assumptions are that an adult “missing person” must have been abducted by a crazed lunatic.  Accidents do happen and sometimes young people disappear (run away or turn off their phones).

Just food for thought.

Thanks, Laura

Lake Tahoe, California

24 Responses to “Missing” in California

  1. Warren January 5, 2013 at 11:12 pm #

    Does not surprise me any. I will be surprised if people still do not assume that the 19 yr old was abducted, killed and dumped, and that there is a cover up.
    People feel better when they can pin the blame on someone or something, rather than accept accidents.

  2. Steve January 5, 2013 at 11:38 pm #

    Almost everyone can tell you about how one of their own children went missing and the parents just “assumed” it was an abduction——–until…

    …until the child was found sleeping under the bed, or in a closet, or playing down the street in somebody’s back yard.

    And none of these stories get reported in the media.

  3. Wendy January 6, 2013 at 12:13 am #

    This is the problem with out uber-connected lives. When I was younger, various friends would disappear for a day or 2 following a “bender” and everyone knew they’d turn up. In fact, you often didn’t realize they’d been in bed for 2 days with a killer hang over until they told you after the fact. Now if there is no Facebook update for a few hours, the worst is feared.

  4. Puzzled January 6, 2013 at 12:14 am #

    People are more comfortable with abductions than the purely random. They prefer a narrative, complete with villains, over “bad things happen.”

  5. catspaw73 January 6, 2013 at 12:18 am #

    This reminds me of last year when we were visiting the in-laws. Mr almost 9 at the time had been driven nuts by miss 11, so had walked out the front door around the side of the house to the back to calm down. Mother in law roared out the door after him, didn’t see him, so immediately decided he had run away (something he has never done btw), and what were we going to do, and she needed to ring the police, while we tried to calm her down, hubby walked out the front door, around the side of the house and there he was. Or as he put it, she doesn’t worst first, she worst only’s 🙁

  6. baby-paramedic January 6, 2013 at 1:12 am #

    I often wonder if people would know I was missing – probably when I didnt show up for work I guess.
    Ive ‘trained’ people to not expect me to be in constant contact, and to accept I could be anywhere within a few hours drive. If I am visiting a friend my phone is off (unless of course I am on emergency callout, or if I know a big event is happening, like bushfires or floods).
    It is well worth training people to not expect you to be in constant contact, quite freeing.

  7. WeezaFish January 6, 2013 at 7:09 am #

    Sadly, we rarely hear when someone is found alive and well! Why is that?

  8. LRothman January 6, 2013 at 7:56 am #

    baby-paramedic: I like your qualification about fires or floods. I had a chat with my parents about that a while back. I got a postcard from them sent from New Orleans the day of Katrina about 4 days after it hit. Turns out they had dropped the postcards in the mail the day before and left town. I asked that in the future if they were on-site for any major disasters to give a shout and let us know they were OK.

  9. TaraK January 6, 2013 at 8:40 am #

    I hate it when our local news has headlines like, “Local boy narrowly missed being kidnapped” when a stranger (gasp!) is seen talking to him outside his house.

  10. M January 6, 2013 at 10:37 am #

    Why do people always want to assume the worst?

    Back when I was young and wild, I went drinking on a weekday and realized I over-indulged and wouldn’t make it home. I was just sober enough to be concerned that I would forget to call in sick in the morning, because I knew I would have a raging hangover. I called a co-worker and told her if I didn’t show up, to tell the boss I was sick.

    She in turn called my boss, my boyfriend, and the police and told them I had been kidnapped and forced to make the phone call. She also tried to reach my parents, which thankfully she didn’t do.

    I’m still baffled by that.

  11. Michelle January 6, 2013 at 12:09 pm #

    This reminds me of an article from Cosmo last year, about a college girl who “mysteriously” went missing. The whole article was full of fear and innuendo about what might have happened, and her parents and the cops worrying about foul play with absolutely no evidence to suggest it. I kept reading, thinking at some point the villain would be revealed, but it turned out she had simply gotten tired of school, told the school and her parents different stories, and gone on a road trip. Then she got into an accident and went off the road in a remote area, and wasn’t discovered right away. Here parents even received a letter sent right before she died explaining everything. Yet, even after that, the cops were still looking for something sinister to blame.

  12. Lollipoplover January 6, 2013 at 12:45 pm #

    A few months ago, there was a 16 year-old missing autistic girl alert all over the news. It was lead news story, but the conclusion was buried a few days later in the news after she was found.
    Apparently, she stole her parent’s Lexus and took a road trip to Texas to meet up with another teen. She changed and cut her hair to evade capture. Sometimes a teen runaway is just a teen runaway but the media prefers to take it’s viewers on an emotional roller coaster ride.

  13. Missy January 6, 2013 at 1:24 pm #

    Ridiculous. No one can even leave the house without a cell phone or people assume the worst.

  14. Jim Collins January 6, 2013 at 1:36 pm #

    “The worst” sells newspapers and makes people watch television news. When somebody turns up alive, it isn’t deemed worthy of taking up the time to report it, especially if there is another “the worst” to report.

  15. Snow January 6, 2013 at 2:36 pm #

    I am in my 40s, married and have children and my mother still panics if I don’t call her every single day.

  16. mollie January 7, 2013 at 1:05 am #

    When I was about 21, and I had just moved to the upper MIdwest after finishing university, I was all hot to go ice skating outdoors, a real novelty for me at the time (not so much 15 years and many -45 F windchills later). I had a brand-new pair of skates, and lived in an apartment alone very near a little lake.

    One night in December, as the sun was setting, I saw someone ice skating on the lake and took that as my cue that it was time to go on out and try it. By the time I got out there it was pretty much dark, and that person was gone, but I kicked off my shoes, laced up, and started out on the glassy, snowless ice.

    I had on a heavy shearling coat that weighed about 25 lbs, and it acted like a sail. With the wind at my back, staying to one side, I ended up on the other side of the lake in no time. When I turned around to come back, the icy wind hit me right in the face and I found that I was not making any progress at all. I remembered at that moment about sailing, that I might try skating across the wind instead of right into it, so I started off toward the middle of the spring-fed lake.

    I’m not sure what stopped me at that moment, but I did stop, and stood looking at a two-and-a-half-foot wide hole in the ice, the black water rippling in the wind. “If that’s open water,” I thought, “then what am I standing on?”

    In that moment it hit me: I could fall in, the weight of my coat would take me right down, the current would drag me beyond the opening, and I’d be gone, just like that. And no one would have any f*cking idea where I went, since I’d told no one I was going skating, and it wasn’t a lake that was ever open for public skating (I found this out after I told the story to my boyfriend).

    I thought about my parents, and how frantic they would be, not knowing what became of me until the thaw in the spring. I knew, though, that it wasn’t my moment to die, and I turned away from the water and skated directly to the shore, then walked on the edge of the shore in my skates the mile and a half to where my shoes were. “Wow. I almost died tonight,” I thought.

    I was alone, in the dark, a young woman, no one around… and what was the most imminent danger to my well-being? My own ignorance, and thin ice. Not a rapist, not a murderer.

  17. A Dad January 7, 2013 at 11:40 am #

    Nobody is going to watch the news if the headline is “Girl goes missing. Not sure yet, but police think she ranaway from life.”

    It makes people listen if the headline is “Lunatic believed to have kidnapped girl.”

  18. pentamom January 7, 2013 at 1:06 pm #

    “I am in my 40s, married and have children and my mother still panics if I don’t call her every single day.”

    Not picking on Snow’s mother particularly by any means, but think of how people functioned generations back. People pioneered across the country, or across the ocean, and couldn’t communicate with immediate family members except by letters (if they were literate or knew someone who was) that took weeks to travel each way. They adapted.

    OTOH, a lot of people lived near their relatives and saw them daily, and probably had that expectation of regular communication. But it’s the difference between enjoying the ability to communicate frequently, and regarding frequent communication as some kind of talisman that protects the other person from harm, that seems new.

    “Sadly, we rarely hear when someone is found alive and well! Why is that?”

    Unless it’s a child who got on the wrong bus or off at the wrong stop — then it’s reported that the child is alive and well as though that was in serious doubt.

    More seriously, it could be that when an adult is involved, and it turns out that the decamping was voluntary, issues of privacy come into play. Once is a search is called off because the person is no longer “lost,” it’s not really everyone’s business where the person is or how she is doing.

  19. Hels January 7, 2013 at 2:04 pm #

    This culture of fear becomes pervasive. My mom told me yesterday that she watched Taken the night before (a movie, even, not the news!) and then she couldn’t sleep at night because she was worried about my plans to go to Europe alone in the summer. Then I reminded her that I have gone to Europe alone many times in the past, and the first time that I went 10 years ago I had barely turned 20, and my plans included going hiking in the Alps with a bunch of people I only knew online. Back they my parents did even bat an eye at that! So my Mom resolved not to watch movies like that at night. Good for her. If only people stopped watching fear-mongering TV programs before bed…

  20. Virginia January 7, 2013 at 5:35 pm #

    For many years, it was nearly impossible to get police or public attention for adults or even teenagers — kids as young as 13 — who suddenly went missing. The assumption was always that they’d taken off voluntarily. Often they had, but sometimes they hadn’t. Personally, I think it’s better to get the word out early than to wait until it may be too late. IMO, the possible harm of creating anxiety is outweighed by the possible good –however small the chance — of saving a life.

    And that’s not only in the case of abduction. For example, regarding the young woman who tragically fell and died, maybe there’s nothing anyone could have done — but on the other hand, if someone had been looking for her in the right place, maybe she could have been saved. It’s our job, as citizens and neighbors, to react to these reports appropriately — with vigilance and concern, but not with panic.

  21. lexi January 7, 2013 at 10:51 pm #

    First of all, I’m so sad for the 19 year old and her loved ones.

    This is long-winded, but I swear there is a point to this story:

    I had an experience the other evening which made me realize how “worst-first thinking” has seeped into so many areas of our lives and influences how we treat one another. Worst first thinking basically allows one human to treat another human poorly, preferring to jump to “worst case scenario” instead of remaining logical and assessing situations based on observation–relying and trusting instinct and judgement.

    My newly purchased vehicle had a recall for a minor mechancial issue which required me to take the vehicle to the dealer to have it fixed, and a shuttle was graciously provided to take me home while the work was completed. When it was time to retrieve the car my toddler was still napping so I opted to wait for my husband to take me after he got home from work, instead of having the shuttle take me back.

    The service department left my key locked in the car at the dealer and parked it in the lot to be picked up after the service department closed. Five minutes before getting to the dealer I realized that I forgot my spare key and wanting to avoid a round-trip drive in traffic back to my house (with an annoyed husband), my knee-jerk practical side kicked in and I came up with the crazy idea that if I called the sales department they may have a way of getting me into my car.

    Silly me…I thought that with the many forms of identification that both my husband and myself were carrying, the recently signed contract, likely sitting in the dealership for purchase of the $28,000 vehicle that was recalled (mind you, the only reason I was carless for the day), and the insurance and registraton forms with our names plastered all over everything.

    I was prepared to hear “no, we’re sorry, we can’t because we don’t have any way of doing that”. That would have been fine with me. I tried, at least. But, no…the response to my request was “yes, we have a way of getting into your car, but I don’t think that would be a smart idea”. Curious, I had to know, “why?”. His response was “what if you have an elaborate scheme to steal a car? Really? I somehow put false documents in the glovebox and inside the dealership and got really realistic photos of ourselves on our driver’s licenses that have the same exact names as the names locked safely within the car? This guy really sounded proud of himself for outsmarting us and smelling our evil plot a mile away…well really we were just around the corner.

    Not feeling like picking a fight I would lose, I just rolled my eyes and hung up. Shaking my head, feeling bad for the guy that had a chance to meet us, look at our ID–use his common sense–and send us gratefully on our way, it struck me that this kind of stuff happens far too often due to “worst-first thinking”. I’m happily going to keep being that helpful person–unless of course my gut and common sense tells me someone’s bad news. And, then, and only then, will I treat them poorly.

  22. Donna January 8, 2013 at 3:44 am #

    When I was in my 20s, I took a trip to Dallas (I lived in San Diego at the time) to meet up with some friends (not from Dallas either). I realized on the plane, that I had never bothered to tell anyone that I was going to Dallas – one of those random thoughts that occur when you say “hmmm, if this plane crashes my family is going to be really shocked when they get notified since they have absolutely no idea that I had any plans to go to Dallas this, or any other, weekend.” Since the plane didn’t crash, I don’t recall that I bothered to do anything about that oversight once I got to Dallas. I guess I was lucky that an all points bulletin wasn’t issued and my friends arrested for abducting me.

  23. Rachel January 8, 2013 at 2:49 pm #

    I think what drove me crazy listening to this on the news here in Northern CA was the “Teenager Gone Missing” headline they kept flashing. I kept saying”A 19 year old is a woman”

  24. bmommyx2 January 8, 2013 at 8:25 pm #

    I guess I hadn’t been watching the new, I live in So. Cal & I hadn’t heard anything about this. I do agree with the worst first thinking is bad. People tend to overreact & I put a lot of blame on the media sensationalizing every story.