The Nightmare Of A Missing Child

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - June 15, 2005

The disappearance of Natalee Holloway in Aruba conjures up nightmarish scenarios all parent dread. It seems so innocent and safe. A chaperoned group of students head off for a once-in-alifetime adventure to an exotic destination. Sun, surf, tan and party. That’s pretty much the priority list for high school students when they head out for vacation. This one, however, went completely wrong.

I had the opportunity to sail to Aruba during my cruise directing days, and remember Aruba and the main port city of Orangestad as being one of the most hospitable and quaint stops on our run. Aruba has always held some mystique and magic. It was a place most had heard of, but few had ever seen. I was there just as the mass tourism push was beginning.

Near the port, a tremendous entertainment and hotel complex had just opened. It boasted a casino, shops, upscale restaurants and the requisite tourist offerings. Locals whom I spoke with were mixed about all the changes. Some were supportive because many were already depending on tourism for their livelihood, but others were bemoaning the inevitable changes that came with discovery.

Predatory elements thrive in environments where prey is plentiful. According to recent news articles on Holloway, five men are in custody while an investigation into possible foul play is ongoing. It is plausible to believe these suspects are capable of criminal activity based on police reports. We have already learned these two allegedly “worked” the tourism spots trying to hook up with female vacationers. Did their standard M.O. go terribly wrong with Holloway?

I hope not.

So why the incredible international focus on the disappearance of one girl? One reason is she’s a pretty, all-American girl from small-town USA. Aruba is an exotic, yet relatively unknown destination. This is truly a literary mystery in real life.

Another reason is the local Aruban government, Dutch government and related business associates have a huge reason to find Holloway safe and sound. They all have a huge investment in cultivating the image of Aruba. They also have a huge financial interest in potential losses. If Aruba’s reputation becomes one of a dangerous destination, millions of dollars and man hours would be wasted.

Remember the increased HPD interest in stopping local driveby purse snatchings of Japanese? If so, I am sure you remember those images making it to Japanese TV. Not a good message when you are relying upon each and every dollar from Japanese tourists.

The most compelling reason to explain the extensive coverage of this case is each and every parent can relate to the basic premise “anything can happen.” Stories such as this, and like the Elizabeth Smart case, reach deep into your psyche and play games with your mind and heart. It is like the ultimate underdog scenario. The majority of us like to see the victimized survive and the perpetrators get what they deserve. I hope you are including Natalee Holloway in your prayers, regardless of where she may be.

Just a quick aside …

I took in the very popular film Crash last week at Ward. My goodness! Finally, a film that transcends formula and predictability. Paul Haggis is the director and screenwriter. His latest writing credit is for a little project named Million Dollar Baby. It only won four Oscars. I was immediately taken with the clever dialogue, interwoven story lines (which can be formulaic in less-skilled hands) and the relentlessly seamless performances.

I won’t give the details, but pay attention to the Iraqi father. Wow!

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