Thursday, April 26, 2007


I've been trying for some days now to find a way to follow my last post. Time and again I've come up with nothing. These last days have been busy and they have been crazy. They have not all been awful, but they've been an awfully mixed bag. I will start with the awful though.

I arrived in Manila the day of my last entry. Gathered there were 40-some volunteers. Julia had been missing 8 days. For those fortunate enough to have known her well, there were phases to go through. Shock, denial, rage, numbness. Not knowing is a terrible thing. Others, like myself, were less certain where we fit in. Personally, I barely knew her. I exchanged a few emails with her, met her twice. I hadn't been entirely uneffected by her disappearance - she was one of us. But to be in a group with her closest friends and comrades I felt vaguely out of place, like a fraud. Imagine cutting your finger just a little bit, just enough to need stitches, and walking into an ER full of people shot in the gut. That's when you know - you're not injured. Sitting there, waiting to be seen, you'd feel kind of dumb being there at all.

The next day was the big day. It was the meeting central to the trip - where Director Tschetter and our Country Director Karl Beck would talk to us about what happened, what they knew, and what was being done. They were right in the middle of the meeting - gesturing to a map of where they were currently concentrating their search efforts, when the call came. The police had found a body.

One moment we were immersed in fear and discussion, the next moment brought a pause; one tiny second of complete disbelief before sadness boiled across the room like an angry wave. First the gasps, then the sobs, all in unison. I've never in my life experienced a moment like that, and I couldn't ever forget it. For myself, I was in a state of shear disbelief, and for the life of me I can't explain why. The moment just seemed so impossible, so improbable.

In retrospect, I agree with the psychologist Peace Corps brought in to speak with us - it was better it happened that way, when we were all gathered together in one place. Honestly, it seemed such a brutal moment at the time, but I keep going back to it, and I can't imagine a better way for everyone to have been told the horrible news.

At that time, we were being reassured it was almost certainly a hiking accident.

That wasn't how things turned out. As it turns out, she was beaten to death. With a wooden pole. Possibly by several people and probably for money.

But I won't write much on that. The subject is delicate, the facts aren't all in. Will I offend someone by writing on it? It was a deeply offensive act. How could I not?

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