Faced with a Missing Loved One

MORGAN LEGEL | Columnist

She sat there at her desk, hands trying to hold up her heavy head. With rivers of tears rushing from her eyes, she could not help the thoughts traveling at the speed of light through her head.

“Do my parents blame me? Was this actually my fault? How can I fix this? I never thought this would happen to me.”

This girl was me last Sunday.

My aunt went missing from the Greyhound bus station in Indianapolis, and I was the last one to see her.

I panicked. I blamed myself. I spent day after day searching for her, only to come up with more questions.

She has since been found, alive and well, but the thought still remains: I never thought something like this would happen to me.

The truth of the matter is, more than two million people went missing in 2012 alone, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Crime Information Center website.

This statistic includes all categories of missing persons, but imagine boiling this number down to only college-age missing persons.

What would happen if your best friend was missing? What if it was your boyfriend or girlfriend? What would you do?

After going through this experience in the past week, I have some advice and steps to follow if this ever happens to you, someone you know or another student.

The first thing to do is stay calm. At the end of the day, acting out of anger or breaking down will not find your missing person—hard work and determination will.

Second, a preliminary search is necessary. You should contact friends and family of the missing person, and ask them to phone around to widen the search. The more information you have, the better. Don’t feel the need to take on everything by yourself.

If nothing turns up at that point, the third step is to notify the police. However, it is never too soon to alert the police, so this could be the first thing you do.

After that, widening the search again is always a good idea. The Internet is the best tool for this. Newspapers, radio and television also help get the word out quickly. Posters can help if you plan on searching locally.

What really helped us find my aunt were tips we received.

We kept asking—on the TV, radio and everywhere we could—for people to phone in if they knew anything. Eventually, someone received a tip that she had gotten a ride with a trucker, and we switched to Citizens Band Radio–the radio stations used by truckers. We eventually found her.

Regardless of whether you believe someone has taken a person you care about, or if they have ran away, these steps could help.

They may seem silly and based on common sense. However, when you’re in the moment of realization that someone is missing, all you might do is panic about finding that person.

I wish I would have known these things at the beginning of my search. Hopefully it will help someone else in a similar situation.