They can be strange lands, the pathways of our memory.
Our recent discussions about animosity and forgiveness and letting go of disappointment and anger has provoked recollections of a case which I haven’t thought about for long time.
When I was a news reporter twenty years ago I covered the search for a young girl (13, I recall) who had gone missing on a bike ride to her local shops. The police organised door-to-door canvassing in her home suburb, and search and rescue professionals and volunteers from tramping clubs combed the bush and foreshore all around the valley and beaches within short driving distance of where she was last seen. I joined the bush search.
It was very easy for me to get caught up in the espirit de corps of the search and rescue group. With my woollen bush shirt, sturdy footwear, sunglasses and my new-fangled cell phone (about the size of a loaf of bread) I raced up and down bush tracks calling out and looking for any sign of the young girl.
The chill sets in
After a day or two of fruitless searching, the tone of the team changed. By the end of the third day a chill crept into all of us. Now, we realised, we were looking not for a lost girl, we weren’t calling out for someone waiting for us to find her. We were looking for a body. The dread was powerful. My mum, hearing one of my live voice reports on the radio during the day, called me at home that evening concerned about me. ‘Peter, you sounded so sad,’ she said. I told her I was. What an understatement.