While Michael Dunahee hasn’t been in my consciousness for the past fifteen years, I certainly remembered his name when his story resurfaced in the media recently. In 1991, four-year-old Michael disappeared from a school playground in Victoria, BC. Despite over 11,000 tips, his disappearance remains an unsolved case. A $100,000 reward has been announced by Victoria Police to mark the 15th anniversary of his disappearance. A computer-generated composite drawing of what Michael may look like as a 19-year-old was also released to the media.
Michael’s mother, Crystal, was quoted as saying that she still holds out hope that her son “is out there somewhere, just waiting.” As a mother I cannot fathom the extent of her grief. I do understand the horror-filled panic that sweeps over you as you lose track of a child. When my son, Greg, was a toddler, he slipped away from me in the ladies-wear department of a large store in Edmonton. I remember trying to keep from running hysterically through the store. I looked around quickly, calling his name before deciding I needed help. I had a sales clerk make an announcement over the store’s public announcement system. I wondered what I’d tell his father. How could I live with the guilt of losing him on my watch?
I can’t describe the relief mixed with horror as I saw him with a woman. Was she rescuer or abductor? It turns out she was a store employee leaving work at the end of her shift who had spotted him by the door. She was bringing him back to where the announcement had been made. Thank you Lord. As a conscientious first-time mother, I thought I was doing everything right. But kids are quick and wily creatures with no innate sense of danger when they’re very young. Can you believe that it would happen again years later with Hilary? This time, I found her hiding in a rack of women’s clothing. Twice blessed.
Short of tethering them to your wrist or never leaving home, I’m not sure how much more a parent can do to safeguard their children. I do know that when the local RCMP had a child identification clinic, I was there. Not so long ago, I came across the paper with his footprints, height, weight, eye and hair colour recorded along with a current photo. Today, some twenty-five years later, DNA samples are also being taken in the event of a tragedy.
The Missing Children’s Society of Canada, founded in 1986 to find runaway and abducted children, has closed 4,000 cases since its inception. The unofficial numbers for 2005 indicate a total of 66,548 missing kids in Canada. That’s a lot of parents praying their child is “out there somewhere, just waiting.” We must stay vigilant both for the sake of our own and other people’s children. Mrs. Dunahee needs closure, from where I sit.