Friday, August 24, 2007


About 5 years ago my now ex-wife's 80 year old father was missing for 24 hours. He left his home in Leola in the morning with a horse and buggy to attend a family gathering in Reinholds. It should have taken about an hour to arrive. He never showed up. He had become lost and wasn't found until the following morning. The family was distraught when nightfall arrived and he hadn't been found. A non-Amish friend and I spent several hours driving around looking for him. A severe thunder storm with torrential rain passed through the area around eleven PM, which made driving hazardous and limited visibility, so we went home, planning on renewing our efforts in the morning.

Because I couldn't sleep, and because I needed someone to talk to, I called another non-Amish friend. Even though it was now 1 AM, he generously helped me plan how to maximize our efforts for the morning. He counseled me to call the police, even though my wife's family had already reported Dad missing, he recommended trying to elicit a specific response of if and when they would issue a missing person alert and what additional measures they could enact.
I took his advice and was told by police that they had to wait for 24 hours to pass before taking any action. That decision, they told me, would be made by the officer coming on duty at 7 AM.

Having taken the "official response" part of our strategy as far as I could for the time being, I turned my focus to getting "missing person" fliers printed and distributed. The new day that was approaching was a Sunday, so I taped fliers to church doors and handed them out to early risers,wherever I found them.
At some point that morning I received a disorienting sequence of phone calls. First the day shift officer called to say they had put out a missing person alert, but they wouldn't be able to organize an official search. A short time later my friend called me to say he had just spoken with the police and they were dispatching several local fire companies to aid in the search. I didn't have much time to think about it at the time, but I recall saying "what did you say, that I hadn't said, to create such a different response?" Within seconds the officer called back to inform me of the revised plans.

So why was my non-Amish friend able to elicit a far greater response from the police than I was?

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