Don’t stay out past midnight. Never walk alone at night. And don’t talk to strangers. Michelle Gardner-Quinn, the Vermont student whose body was found yesterday, went to high school with Jordan. These college student stories are always horrible and terrifying but when you know the child it really it certainly rings the parental “there but for God go I” bell.
When I arrived in Boston on Monday Jordan told me that she had received a call from an old friend who told her that Michelle was missing. ‘Missing’ can mean so many different things. But it was parents weekend and her parents were in Burlington. So where would she have gone? Missing, abducted, lost, mislaid, gone... Michelle had traveled to many different places. She was worldly by young people standards. We all want our kids to have good experiences and become independent. Does it ever occur to us that they will become so comfortable with their independence that they will become careless or worse, helpless.
Michelle and Jordan performed together in a few high school plays. I didn’t remember who she was until I saw her picture. And then, in my mind, I saw her as 13 years old running down the halls at HB Woodlawn, just beginning her unique high school experience. Kids at HB, an alternative 6-12 public school in Arlington Virginia, have a special education. The school is based on trust and honesty. The kids, along with the teachers, make all kinds of policy decisions. They are permitted to leave the grounds when they are in 8th grade and if they don’t have classes they don’t have to be in the building. The school teaches them to use good judgment and make their own sensible decisions. When HB kids leave for college their parents don’t worry about them going wild because they are on their own tasting some autonomy, they have already tasted freedom and learned how to be responsible about it. There are no downsides to this, but learning to trust doesn’t prepare them to deal with a maniac or a predator.
Two years ago when Jordan was driving some friends home at 2:30am, she was rear ended by two drunks. The drunks stopped but when Jordan, who was hysterical, had her friend Alex call the police, the drunks fled. They called David and along with the police trached down the vehicle and consequently the drunks. It went to court and the drunks claimed it was a case of mistaken identity and the charges were dismissed. What crap! But that’s not my point. The police officer told Jordan that she really needed to be careful about staying out after midnight because that’s when she was likely to find trouble and that's when the creeps were on the prowl.
Kids never listen. Parents always worry. My heart goes out to Michelle’s parents. They are living our worst nightmare. My heart also goes out to our children, who can too easily become victims. What is the answer? I guess the best we can do is buy them some pepper spray, just remind them not to be alone if they are out late, and for Gods sake, don’t talk to strangers. We’re just sayin...