October 10, 2009 7:57:00 PM
Adele Elliott - [email protected]
Elizabeth Smart is back in the news. You will remember her as the fragile blonde teen, stolen from her bed in 2002 and held captive for nine months. Today she is a composed and articulate 21-year-old testifying against her kidnapper.
Jaycee Dugard, too, is home with her family after 18 years of imprisonment by a psychopath.
These stories have so much in common. There is the obvious similarity in the girls'' appearance: fair hair, pale skin, delicate beauty.
Incredibly, both criminals were aided by their wives. I have to wonder ... how do these people find each other? An argument can be made that the wives, too, may be considered victims. Apparently, the men were master manipulators, playing mind games only they could win. This column, however, is not about those women. I''m having trouble engendering much sympathy for them.
My real concern is how something so ghastly could be hidden for so long. Elizabeth Smart was draped in Burqa-like robes, while she was allowed to roam in public, even attending a party with her captors. Jaycee Dugard''s prison was a haphazard assortment of random lean-tos and flimsy tarps. These girls were shrouded in murky shadows while living in intense sunlight. Why couldn''t they be seen?
Both girls had been recognized at some point in their captivity. However, police investigations fell through. No leads, no tips were enough to rescue Elizabeth or Jaycee earlier in their nightmare.
In a way, these stories have a happy ending. Two girls, once vanished, are alive, returned to families who adore them. In spite of emotional wounds that may never heal, they are on a bumpy path toward restoration, both psychological and physical. Few missing-children stories end this well.
Sometimes we want to believe that these things happen very far away. But, here in Columbus, a young woman has disappeared. Where is Kaila Morris?
She is ours, just as all children in the community are ours. And we have lost her. I am so very concerned about this young woman.
Most of us have a live-and-let-live attitude. We mind our own business. Perhaps we "look away" too much. Is it time to peek under other people''s veils, or their tarps?
We Southerners love our eccentrics. The kooky aunt, the quirky cousin -- most are harmless and make amusing cocktail-party anecdotes. But, when does behavior move from peculiar to dangerous? I''m not sure about the answer to that.
Perhaps we can only try to look a bit more closely. Elizabeth Smart and Jaycee Dugard were hidden in plain sight. It was as if they were trapped in a parallel world of violence and wickedness. Thousands of people were within reach, within hearing, but no one really saw, or heard, them. Again, I ask, why?
I hope that by the time this column is published, we will have found Kaila Morris. I hope that she just ran off on a foolish lark. Certainly, at her age she is allowed one or two.
All we can do now is to pray for the missing and for their families. But until we have solved the mystery of Kaila''s disappearance (and forever after), we must pay attention to our world. We owe that to each other.
Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina.