Adele Elliott: Hidden

May 18, 2013 1:53:52 PM

Adele Elliott - [email protected]


Some states in the northeast have been invaded by cicadas this month. After a 17-year slumber, they made their unwelcome appearance, and will remain until late May (CBS, New York, April 3, 2013). 


We are all too familiar with this creepy, locust-like insect. They look like something out of the Jurassic Period, primitive and ominous. Almost everyone in the Golden Triangle has heard the mating call, which has been measured at 100 decibels, similar to the noise created by a subway train (CBS, April 3, 2013). 


And, yes, they can sting. Although rare, they can mistake a human for a tree, and pierce the skin with their long proboscis, mining for sap. 


I am fascinated that these tiny monsters can remain burrowed in the ground for 13 to 17 years between emergences. They are right under our feet, and we are unaware that they are there. 


Even more disturbing was the news about three women who escaped from 10 years of torture and imprisonment. They, too, were so very close to others. 


Ariel Castro is accused of kidnapping Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight. They were held in Castro's home, in the very same neighborhood where they lived, and from where they were abducted. It seems that no one knew they were there. 


Castro's two brothers, Pedro and Onil (who were initially taken into custody, but later released), even visited in the home. They are now calling their brother a "monster" and say if they had known what was happening, they would have reported it to police (ABC News, May 13, 2013). 


My column today is not about what happened, but about how it went unnoticed for so very long. 


I suppose we all think that if this had taken place in our neighborhood, we would have been aware of it, and acted. However, Castro's own brothers claim to have had no clue about his crimes. 


I wonder, too, about the man himself. How was he able to keep such a horrendous secret for 10 years? Evidently, he barbecued with the neighbors, played in a band and drove a bus for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. Castro lived a relatively mundane existence on the surface, while maintaining a Marquis de Sade secret life. 


In many ways, this story is much like the kidnapping of Jaycee Lee Dugard. She, too, was held hostage by her captors, almost in plain sight, in their back yard. Phillip Garrido and his wife, Nancy Garrido, kept Jaycee and her two children (born in captivity) for 18 years. 


In both cases, the missing girls were embarrassingly accessible. There were lengthy searches for them. They were not forgotten. Still, their captors had little trouble concealing them. They were so close to neighbors that it is hard not to wonder if the kidnappers wanted to be caught. After so very many years, did they tire of the charade? Did they ever wish that it were just all over? 


We probably have trouble imagining what the criminals were thinking. We may not want to know what physical horrors the victims endured and how they suffered emotionally. But we can all identify with the neighbors. How terrible they must feel. 


My message today is to say that we all need to pay attention. Sometimes, the politically correct attitude of minding our own business may mean that we ignore the wrong things. Our world is a scary place. Horrible creatures lie dormant beneath out feet. Fiends in unremarkable clothing may live next door. Maybe our lesson is to make some waves, even if it means standing up to authority, even if it means being a bit foolish. Lives could depend on it.

Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina.