Like thousands of other Virginians and across the United States, my heart skipped a beat this evening upon the news that the body of missing UVA student Hannah Graham may have been found. Graham, missing since September 13, was last seen after getting separated from friends in the downtown area often populated by students. A likely suspect is currently in custody and the investigation continues.
A parents’ worst nightmare is hearing that your child has gone missing – and then later found hurt or dead. No parent ever wants to hear those dreaded words. Yet, having been a young college student earlier in my lifetime, spending an evening carefully carousing with friends was not unheard of late into the wee hours. It didn’t occur to me that my parents might have been worrying their heads about my safety and welfare. Yet, many years later as a parent to two young children, I finally understand the fears that crossed my parents’ mind – and this was long before the era of texting and mobile phones, let alone social media “check-ins” to track whereabouts.
One day my own kids will fly from the safety nest of our home and will spread their wings on a college campus, then on the road to young adulthood. How in the heck am I going to learn to let go of them – to be assured that they will make the most responsible choices? It’s not realistic or reasonable for me to be checking on them 24/7 when they reach that age, I trust that my husband and I will have done all we could to teach them how to be street-smart. But it will not prevent everything.
Even all the street smarts cannot prevent unforeseen circumstances. I did not know Hannah Graham, but from what I have read she sounded like a super-smart, well-adjusted young lady who unfortunately happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time – and it has likely cost her life. Don’t get me wrong; I am not passing any judgment on Miss Graham, but rather making a sad commentary that we don’t live in a day and age where everyone is inherently good. Instead, we have to be overly cautious in our surroundings because of the small majority that intend to hurt others.
I pray that Hannah Graham’s family is able to find comfort and closure. I hope that no other parent has to face this situation in their lifetime, although the sad reality is that it happens all the time. I fear the day that our kids get their driver’s licenses, let alone the day they move on from the safe clutches of our daily family routine on to decisions about dorm life, college majors and careers. But mostly, the safety factor that they will end up in one piece – unharmed – is of greater concern for all of us.