Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Michael Dunahee: is it him?



I was eleven years old when Michael Dunahee went missing from a playground in Victoria, BC.  Being that I was from a city so close by, it felt a little too close for comfort.  I remember it impacting pretty much everyone I knew, the idea that a child could just disappear like that.

Time passed, but Michael Dunahee became a household name.  Everyone knew the story, and we all held out hope that one day he would be found alive.  The whole thing is devastating, but not knowing what happened means his family never gets any amount of closure, and that doesn’t sit well with me.  (Not that closure means they would ever even remotely recover from their loss, but it would at least be something for them to have an answer).  Now that I am a parent of a boy the same age as Michael was when he disappeared, it terrifies me to even imagine what it would be like to be in that position.  I don’t even want to think about it – except that I do, insofar as I am definitely cautious (without being overbearing!) when we’re at the park, because even though the parks we frequent seem safe, I know that anything can happen.  It can be a scary world out there.


Recently it came out in the news that a man living in Surrey was having his DNA tested to see if he might be Michael Dunahee.  In some ways, this is a time when I think social media and our ability to put everything out there so easily is a problem.  The man wrote on a public message board about how the police had approached him due to tips they’d been given that he had a striking resemblance to what Michael would look like now according to computer generated images.  I don’t think it was right for him to share this information so publicly.  The police have to respond to any tips they’re given, but I would hope they go about looking into them without even mentioning it to the Dunahee family.  Why give them hope when after all these years, the chances are so slim that they are going to find him?  But because the guy put it out there, it was all over the news, and therefore put into the faces of Michael’s family.  While I’m sure it’s hard in some ways to even have hope anymore – I read in one article that his father was already dismissing the idea that it was his son – I’m sure there’s a part of them that can’t help but feel hopeful.  You’d have to.  So that poor family has been left wondering for 22 years now, and here they are waiting and wondering once again, with a glimmer of hope to hold onto, knowing that likely the guy won’t be a match and they’ll be back to grieving all over again.  My heart truly goes out to them, I feel so sad for them, just imagining how painful this whole process has been.  While I see how theoretically the man didn’t break the law by talking about how he was approached and asked for his DNA, I also can’t help but wonder if the police asked him to keep quiet about it.  I can’t quite get over how upsetting this must be for the Dunahees and it bothers me that it was leaked to the public.

I can’t help but hold out hope that it turns out he’s Michael.  It would be bittersweet because obviously no matter what, his family missed out on very crucial years of his life.  They wouldn’t even know each other.  But knowing he is alive would be so amazing.  To be given a chance to know each other again, incredible.  I can’t understand why they aren’t speeding up the process of testing his DNA so that it doesn’t have to take months to find out the answer either way, because it doesn’t seem fair to keep this family waiting another second wondering.  But I sincerely hope it’s a match, and they might be able to start piecing together what happened, and get their son back after all.

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