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Where's Suzie?

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It was a very warm day in May in Galveston, Texas. The date was May 21, 1977 to be exact. I woke up, completed all my chores, got dressed, and then called my mom.

“U.S. Customs”, she said when she answered the phone.
‘Mom’, I said, ‘I am getting ready to leave.’
“Where are you going?”
Remember, Donna and Suzie and I were going to Christie’s Beachcomber today to go swimming? Donna isn’t going now, just Suzie and me.’
“How are you getting there?”
‘I told you, I am walking to Suzie’s grandma’s house, then she and I are going to walk to her house so she can change into her bathing suit, then we are going to walk to Christie’s.’
“No, you can’t go.”
‘Why? I did all my chores and you said I could go. If I don’t go then she won’t have anyone to go with.’
“No, you can’t go today. That’s it!”

I was furious! She had already told me two days before that I could go and we had it all worked out. I could already tell that summer was going to be boring as heck. I was soon going to be thirteen years old and I couldn’t even go swimming for one day with my best friend.

The rest of the day was a bust. My sister, Linda, was fifteen so she got to be out doing stuff with her friends all the time. Now, I wasn’t allowed to go and for no good reason, just “you can’t go today!”

Suzie and I had gone to the same church all our lives but she had always gone to private school. This was our seventh grade year and the first year she was at my public school. We had become really close and I liked her a lot. She was funny and a lot of fun. Suzie and I were very different physically. She was barely 5 foot and no more than one-hundred pounds. She did not have girl curves yet; her figure was rather straight like a boy’s. She had dimples, though, and a cute face. I, on the other hand, was already 5 foot 7, around one-hundred thirty pounds and was very curvy. I looked older than my age but Suzie looked just about right if not younger.

The next morning my mom called and asked me if I had talked to Suzie. I told her that, no, I hadn’t talked to her and I hoped she wasn’t mad at me for not going with her since I had told her I could and then ‘she’ made me bail on her. I asked why she wanted to know if I had talked to her. “Suzie never made it home yesterday,” she said. I asked her, ‘What? She never made it back from Christie’s? Maybe she met up with a friend and spent the night with them.’ “No, honey, she never made it to her house from her grandmother’s.”

I began thinking of every place I thought she might be. Where could she have gone? I called Donna and asked her if she had heard from her but Donna let me know that it wasn’t that she was with a friend. Her mom had told her that she had disappeared. I thought I was going to explode. My mind was racing. Who would have taken her?
The next few days were a blur. The local newspaper and t.v. news were covering the story. I was mortified. I went back to school and I went to talk to my Principal about a girl at school that I knew did not like Suzie. My principal called the police in too. Ultimately, though, the police had no idea what had happened to her. “It was like she just disappeared into thin air,” her mom said.

Everywhere I went for a very long time, I kept looking out for Suzie. I thought she might have had an accident and gotten amnesia and some stranger may have taken her in. I looked for her everywhere. I made up all kinds of scenarios in my mind. Was she in another city wondering if anyone would ever come for her? So many questions, but still no answers.

One Spring morning during my freshman year of high school, I got the newspaper from outside and sat on the living room floor. I was slammed with the headline "SKELETON IS IDENTIFIED AS MISSING 12 YEAR OLD" and a picture of my friend, Suzie. The article said that some individuals on motorcycles had discovered some human bones, pieces of clothing and a training bra. Suzie’s dentist had been consulted and they determined that it was her.

What had happened to my friend? Had the person who took her done horrible things to her as she lay dying? I would never know. More importantly I wondered, if I had been with her, would they have left her alone or would they have taken us both? It is now thirty-five years later and I am still wondering the same thing. Could I have saved her? What was that feeling my mother had that made her tell me no?

What happened to Suzie has affected the way I have raised my children, how I worry about them and now my brand new granddaughter. I have been the overprotective parent when my kids’ friends were able to do all kinds of things and had no curfews. Losing someone in a tragic way when you are young affects your whole existence.

When I look at my three children, I feel sad that Suzie was never able to have a family of her own. I want her to know that she meant a lot to people who knew her. I want her life to mean something. I want the world to know that a sweet, smart, full-of-life girl and wonderful friend was taken and robbed of her whole life.

The older I get the angrier I become with the constant bombardment of daily stories of bad things happening to children. I want the laws to be as strict as possible on individuals who hurt children. The main thing I want is for every single thing that can be done to keep children safe be done. I pray over this all the time. Mostly, I want to try my best to keep this from happening to any other child. To this end, I will try to reach every young person I can by scheduling escape schools in my area. I would also like to encourage every parent to find out about free escape schools in their areas as well. I realize I cannot do much but, after all these years, I still have to do something.


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