The two Cathy’s appeared at the Find Sierra Search Center at approximately 1 p.m. this afternoon. I had been forewarned that they were coming, but given the numerous tasks at hand, I placed this tidbit in the back of my mind and attended to other matters.
I was writing a press release when they came into my office. Introductions were made all around, and then we closed the office door and discussed our business.
Hopefully, people get into the child-finding business for altruistic reasons. They have either been touched by personal tragedy, they have an overabundance of empathy for the plight of missing children or simply realize that it is their calling.
It's a rewarding field because it becomes helpful to families when they are at a crossroads. When their lives have been turned upside down and they are in need of expert guidance and advice. Those who become advocates for missing children because it will bring them fame and fortune quickly realize the folly of their ways and seek alternative career paths.
I wasn’t prepared for the conversation with the two Cathy’s, but their faces were flushed crimson and their nervous energy was palpable so I knew that something was afoot. I asked them to sit down, but they declined. They had something to say and they weren’t particularly interested in formalities.
Finally, we were just standing there, surrounded by the amped up positive energy, so they wasted no time in delivering their message.
When children disappear, unless you are one of the parents, it can be difficult to remain positive. Family has no choice but to remain hopeful. As a general rule you believe with all of your heart that your child will be returned alive until proven otherwise.
First responders, on the other hand, play the statistical game. We can anticipate the probable outcome in advance. It’s not good outcome, so we keep our world worn knowledge to ourselves, put our chins down, assume a focused gaze, and go about our business.
The two Cathy’s and I emerged from the tiny office to the hustle and flow of busy people engaged in the task at hand. We made our way to the auditorium. The room was full of searchers wearing reflective yellow vests, hiking boots, dirty jeans and weary expressions on their faces.
Searchers are a rare breed. It takes a special kind of person to return time-after-time to trudge around in sometimes hostile territory, avoiding rattlesnakes, scorpions and the other pitfalls of rural nature, all the while looking for evidence of crime.
I know I'm not a natural searcher. I don’t want to find what they are seeking. I don’t want to stare down critters or crawlers and I don’t particularly want to wade into the mulch. But God bless those who do. Without search and rescue volunteers we would have nothing, and missing persons would rarely be located.
The two Cathy’s and I requested the attention of the reporters in attendance. While they set up their cameras and microphones I gave the two Cathy’s a brief overview of the search effort to date.
By 1 p.m. 471 people had registered to search on this day alone, bringing the three-day total to 1,366 searchers. Today we had sent out 41 search teams and had extended the search radius to more than eight miles from ground zero.
We talked briefly about the ever stronger relationship with law enforcement and how responsive they had become anytime a potential clue was reported. All in all I was very proud of our volunteers.
“Excuse me,” I said loudly. When I was ignored I tried again, more loudly. Finally, when I had everybody’s attention, when all eyes were turned toward me, I realized that I was in a bind. For the first time since I don’t remember when I was speechless.
Actually, I do remember the last time I was speechless. It was the day after Polly was kidnapped. Violet and I drove to Petaluma and were walking to Polly’s house. The scene was right out of an episodic crime drama.
Crime scene tape surrounded the perimeter of her yard. Plain clothed and uniformed police officers were moving about purposefully. Television microwave trucks were parked up and down the block, their antenna’s uncoiled as reporters stood around with microphones in their hands.
As I approached the house one of the reporters, who I recognized from the local news, approached me. She asked if I was the little girl’s father and I said I was. She asked if she could interview me. I declined because I simply didn’t know what to say.
Finally, when the room was quiet I spit it out. “Ladies and gentlemen, what you have done here this week is amazing. Your response to Sierra’s plight sets a new bar for community response. Now, I would like to introduce you to the two Cathy’s, from Intero Real Estate Services. Cathy, please, would you like to say a few words,” I asked addressing the first Cathy.
It has been said that the easiest way to suffer a broken arm in Morgan Hill is to get between Marc Klaas and a television camera. I take offense at that statement, but cannot control what other people say. In fact, that is why I never Google myself. But, I digress.
The first Cathy stepped up to the microphones, still flushed crimson and said, “Intero Real Estate Services would like to present the KlaasKids Foundation with $12,000 to be used in the search for Sierra LaMar.”
The room erupted in cheers. It was an awesome and dramatic moment that I will never forget. Even the television reporters were smiling, and if you didn’t already know, television reporters rarely smile.
Then the second Cathy stepped up to the microphones, still flushed crimson and said, “This money was donated by our agents, brokers and office staff in $10 and $20 increments. Since yesterday the amount has doubled and doubled and doubled yet again. We are proud to make this donation and believe that business has to support the communities that give them success.”
All week long I have thought that the volunteers have set a new standard. Now I believe that the business and volunteer communities have taken an unprecedented stand to a new and higher level than ever before.
I hope that other communities are paying attention, because one thing that I have learned these past 19 years is that crimes against children do not discriminate. We are all vulnerable to the forces of evil.