by Lianne Castelino www.whereparentstalk.com
I remember it like it was yesterday. In fact just recently I recounted the story to some friends. We were talking about returning to work after having a baby.
Eerie that it's back in the news. So sad and incredibly senseless.
It was a beautiful crisp spring day a dozen years ago, April 1999, when a young girl named Jolene Riendeau went to the corner store in her neighbourhood, just six blocks from her home in a busy corner of Montreal. Rene Riendeau had given his 10-year-old daughter permission and $2 to walk to the store. She set off on her roller blades. Neighbours saw her munching on some chips. She was never seen again.
Twelve long, painful and exhausting years, hundreds of searches, calls and tips, and millions of posters later, police in Montreal announced yesterday th at they have found Jolene's body. A heart-wrenching ending to a heartbreaking story.
None of the details have been released yet. Who did it, why, when? Police remain tight-lipped except to say they have someone in custody.
I was about 2 months pregnant with my second child and working as a news reporter at CTV Montreal on April 12, 1999. I was assigned the story. This was before Amber Alerts, the internet, mobile devices and many other technological advances now commonly used to search for missing persons.
I remember in vivid detail the hollow and helpless feeling of walking the streets in Jolene's neighbourhood with my cameraman interviewing friends and neighbours, all the while secretly looking for the little girl.
Then came the interview with Jolene's parents. Shock, helplessness, utter sadness but clinging to shreds of hope that their little girl would be found.
The interview was so hard for Dolores Soucy, Jolene's mom, so difficult to mouth the words to us, to the world, to her daughter, to the person who may have taken her little girl. But Soucy and her family soldiered on.
As days moved into weeks, hope seemed to grow. Years came and went with various police searches, false alarms and a longer emotionally- wrenching wait. Hope, though, still flickered.
Now it's gone.
It's stories like these that feed fear in all of us – especially parents. These stories are largely responsible for the fact that kids don't seem to roam free and play til the street lights turn on anymore. Fear often trumps reality and erodes anything rational.
I barely remember what I did yesterday, but I remember Jolene Riendeau's story, interviewing her family the day their daughter and sister went missing and having to recount her disappearance as a journalist. I also remember how certain stories, especially those involving missing children took on a whole new meaning for me after I became a parent. If they were so sad before, they were absolutely paralyzing when I become a mom.
There are no words to describe the courage, fortitude and bravery of these families. Once the cameras leave, the headlines change and the spotlight dims, they must find a way to go on. Every second of every day must be a titanic struggle. A missing child may be out of sight, but never out of mind.
It is cruel on so many levels. Most especially for the little life snuffed out and for the lives left behind to mourn forever.