Heavy Thoughts AKA Things That Influence My Writing: Missing And Unidentified

Why Am I Drawn To The Stories Of Missing People?

I have a tendency to wander off – in grocery stores, in parking lots, in Costco. I get this trait from my father. At one point this led to an interesting scenario where I was 17 and in the back of a police car, but that’s a story for after I’m dead.

This is why I wear a GPS enabled watch with Find My Friends and cell service. It’s because my husband loves me and genuinely cares for my safety and is the only person on this planet that has access to that information in case he can’t find me one of these times I’ve wandered off somewhere. Flowers and books can be distracting when you’re in the woods.

There are a lot of people like me in this world. And there are a lot of people mixed up in bad đź’© one way or another. I look at these cases and I see missing people that could have been me, but I’ve always found my way back. I’ve never been lost – for some reason I have a confident sense of direction even when in wilderness areas. I can’t explain that part, but I bet many of these people felt the same way – they tripped and fell without a way for someone to find them.

I think about their families and that’s where I get stuck. I struggle with understanding extremes of emotions – I tend to shut down instead. I think about how many of those families also shut down and the generations down the line that shutting down impacts. It’s like a death with no closure – it’s so much worse because it’s unknown.

Montana has a huge number of missing persons and cold cases. A lot of these cases are children and there is some suspicion that some of these kids end up in Canada, human trafficking, (sometimes both of those), and worse.

Unidentified Remains

For more information: https://canadasmissing.ca/index-eng.htm

The world is full of unidentified bodies and missing persons. Some of the reconstruction methods for unidentified bodies are better than others – the (Combination) Manchester Method used in the video above is one of the better methods and is a more recent improvement. And all of these bodies are missing their stories.

With these newer methods we are finally putting faces to the skeletons of unidentified remains. These faces have helped family members identify lost loved ones years after their disappearance and finally put what happened to them to rest.

Last autumn I listened to The Disappearance of Des on my commute. It’s a podcast about Desmond Francis Carr – an Australian man who died in 1979. It was when I started listening to missing persons podcasts that I realized just how many unsolved disappearances. In fact, every few years a news network like NPR in 2013, or even Local News Stations in 2019 notes just how many cases go unsolved and that some states seem to have more than others – in that report Alaska, Arizona, and Oregon has the top 3 lead, with Georgia, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts having the fewest missing people per 100,000 residents.

According to NAMUS the United States has 4,400 unidentified bodies found every year and 600,000 people go missing. I think of the number of lives impacted by those 600,000 missing stories and then I realize that’s why all of those podcasts exist. That’s why people need to keep talking about these missing people.

Recent Cases In Montana

As of Friday, 56 children are missing in the state of Montana. The demographics break down as follows:

Here’s a nifty chart I made for everyone to show the comparison.

Without equal representation in both sex categories, I can’t run a full analysis, so I had to throw one of the categories out. If we focus on just the white and native children and look to see if there’s any statistically significant difference between the numbers of children missing in these groups, there isn’t (this is assuming boys and girls all have equal representation within the population).

There are going to be those that argue with me about the inaccuracies of this analysis because of the identities of these children. If the identity is impacting the way the child is now presenting to the world that’s important information that people should come forward about, but that is not information available on the sheet provided by Montana DOJ. I am working only with that information.

I ran it with a generous 95% confidence interval:

The chi-square statistic is 0.1922. The p-value is .661126. Not significant at p < .05


The chi-square statistic with Yates correction is 0.0195. The p-value is .889073. Not significant at p < .05.

There is one thing that is significant though – these populations are supposed to be statistically different. Only 6% of Montana’s population is Native American, so why are 37.5% of missing children from that demographic? If children were being selected randomly from the population, then the distribution should be proportionate to our population, not insignificantly different between the two groups.

That would mean that if missing children were proportionate we would expect only 3.36/56 missing children to be Native American versus the reality of 21/56 missing children (following the percentages mentioned above). Comparing these proportions with a one-tailed Z-test and a generous significance level of 0.05:

The value of z is -4.0403. The value of p is < .00001. The result is significant at p < .05.

NAMUS has a special program in place because of this issue. You can check out the United States Department of Justice’s data sheet here. Montana is one of the states that has not yet passed legislation mandating case entry into this database. I understand that a lot of decisions will need to be worked out.

Anyways, that’s a lot of rambling. This is a heavy subject to write about. If you have any interest in this topic consider volunteering your time to write about a missing person cold case for some form of media. There are a lot out there – more than have been written about.

Thank you for reading. Without you these little bits of data aren’t anything – communication requires a recipient and for you I am grateful.

Life Updates and Homesickness In A Time Of Coronavirus

Life

In my personal life, I’m trying to focus on sanity and reframing my life in light of new information. I’m not ready to disclose this because the world circumstances caused a lot of things to take a nosedive into the land of waiting in uncertainty and self examination. For those within the #WritingCommunity that know more, I appreciate the privacy and support you have provided. I’m sure I will open up in time once more things come to light.

What stage of Social Isolation Insanity are you at?

Image

In response to this picture a couple people asked if I’m okay. I promise this is me having a great time while alone and is a preview to an upcoming shenanigan.

This other picture, however, is talking about something else. I recently started feeling homesick for where I grew up. I replay the echoes of seagulls laughing off the Chesapeake Bay as skates taste my feet with confusion as they glide along the sandbars while I rake clams. As the warm waters returned with the shift in the gulf stream, so did the early morning rituals of waterman life. Standing on the back of an aluminum boat, bracing myself against the wake, I dropped crab pots off the side, each one tied to their own neon float with our family name and number marked. As we returned to the creek, the sulfur smell of estuaries warms the chest and the sea spray settles in to the early stages of sunburn this time of year. Oh, there’s that sticky, nasty, painful emotion again. I think I’ve felt it since 2011 when I moved away from the area permanently. Since then, I beat it down until I couldn’t hear that inner voice anymore and thanks to isolation it’s bubbling up. I kept following “opportunity”. Then I got married. For some reason, up until now, I always thought I’d go home.

Now, I live in Missoula, Montana in the middle of a global pandemic. Living in the middle of nowhere is a blessing. It means that besides working from home and isolating, our family spends a lot of time on our property or out and about. Montana never closed the hiking trails or parks and the campgrounds have reopened in most places. Heck, We tried to go camping this past weekend and Chief Looking Glass campground was packed!

There weren’t any camping spots available since spacing is different.

Montana is requiring a 2 week quarantine for everyone entering the state, plus we’ve been social distancing since before it was “cool”. We are one of the few states that seems to be holding things together pretty well. We have 21 active cases in the whole state and we have expanded testing. That 1 new case is in Jefferson County.

I definitely grabbed this from Reddit – read the full discussion here: https://www.reddit.com/r/MapPorn/comments/gg5moi/coronavirus_case_rates_by_us_stateterritory_582020/

So what happens next? Well, hopefully I’m going to post fun content that will make people smile and laugh. Maybe I’ll post something that will upset someone and that will either make me care or it won’t. We’ll see. I’m a little weird when it comes to detecting the emotions of others – sometimes they confuse me more than anything else and I need help. With that in mind, consider explaining to me what you find upsetting before jumping down my throat. I may be completely oblivious. I’m not saying you have to do this – it’s a suggestion because I promise I don’t intentionally go out of my way to upset anyone. Be gentle with each other in a time of social isolation – we’re not getting a lot of practice interacting when we live alone or live with a limited set of people.

And with that, I’m going to wrap this personal update. Thank you for reading. Without you this would be text sent into the void of space. If you haven’t heard it today: you are loved. You are a human of value and you deserve to be here. You have something to contribute no matter what that mean voice in the back of your head says and I hope you share it with me someday.