I spent part of today checking on a stranger on a local Face Book page.
What that means is, a local resident had posted on a local residents only page about a situation he found strange. He spotted a pickup truck parked in a local wilderness area used by off-road enthusiasts. It was there for too many hours, untouched and left in a way that suggested someone had not planned to be gone so long. He posted a photograph and details about the site that gave him the idea something was amiss. He asked people to 'share' this on social media (FB) to try and find the family or someone who knew the owner of the truck.
On and off throughout the day, in between doing other things I checked on these posts, hoping for a good outcome, but having a bad feeling. This truck had been seen 11 days ago and reported to sheriffs who did noting at the time. It seems if there is no official Missing Persons report filed by a family member, they cannot do anything. He was estranged from his family. He was out there off-roading alone. He was alone.
Through the day the post was shared on other local resident only sites. Hundreds of comments were made. I was only a reader of them most of the day. I was waiting for word. The original poster managed to gather other men to go looking on their ATV's. Folks notified the sheriffs again and finally due to all of this conversation and pressure, a search was begun. It has been cold here at night, for us anyway. Down into the 40's. There was a lot of concern. Where was he? His abandoned truck held his presumed diabetic medication. Mr. Original Poster worked hard to get the ball rolling and stringing together many clues.
As the day progressed and the comment threads got longer and longer, more and more became known about the truck owner. His name, address and the fact that he had a suspended license. Someone found his police record and posted that too. It seemed he'd had some run-ins with the law, DUIs and the like. Suddenly he was a 'felon' and could be 'armed and dangerous'. He could be hiding out from a warrant. Lots of speculations and warnings to be safe if you go out to search. This parade of his personal information and history made me so uncomfortable, even if I could understand the concern for safety when the possibility of guns existed. Especially these days. Even those trying to help gave away so much of his information. It just didn't sit right with me. But, I just kept on hoping for the best.
Finally, law enforcement was out there, not really wanting the public help. Doing what perhaps they should have done days ago. Who knows. Not me. I was left to wonder about red tape and protocol. I was left to wonder about how one ends up so alone, with so few friends and completely estranged from their own family that even when they are made aware of the situation, they still opt not to file a missing person report. How does one's life go so far astray? I was left to wonder about how there can be such an apparent split among community members, with some so ready to help and some so ready to rush to judgement.
Late this evening, after dark, a local couple who had gone out there to help search found him and his off-road vehicle at the bottom of a ravine. And law enforcement made their announcement of their job well done.
How long was he there before one man decided something did not look right and something needed to be done? And everyone, those who had shared the posts or gone to search, those who offered to bring out coffee or food for those searching to those shouting out warnings trying to keep others safe, to those angry with local law enforcement to those trying to explain their procedures and those upset with his family...everyone ended the night broken-hearted for another human being, for a life lost in a cold canyon on a windy night. Because really no matter how that life was lived, no one thought he deserved to die like this.
It was then that I added my voice to the others. I've changed the names to XXX's to protect identities. This is what I had to say and then I lit yet another candle.
"XXX XXX Thank You for sounding the alarm and gathering together so many
folks and resources to locate this man based only on your correct
assumption that something was not quite right and that another fellow
human being was at risk. It was your initial
knocking of the first domino that put everything into action. Because
of that XXX XXX has not passed alone. He instead was surrounded
by a whole community of caring individuals. And while those who put out
calls to be prudent, to be safe had the best interests of all at heart,
may we remember that in this new age of social media, it can be a tool
for goodness and support or a rush to judgement, without all of the
facts well-known or in place. Let us then speak up for our neighbors,
care for our neighbors...but use caution with our words and actions.
Kindness and Love will leave a lasting legacy. Thank you again XXX."
Photos by Nancy A.