For the past several days I have been haunted by the story of the young woman murdered in the mountains of Northeast Georgia. I see little tv here at seminary, so what I know I have picked up from the internet -- a young, strong, experienced, and defensively trained hiker out with her dog, killed by a blow to the head; the alleged perpetrator a drifter who may be responsible for similar deaths elsewhere.
I - neither young, strong, defensively trained, nor in possession of a large dog -- have spent a considerable amount of time hiking in the mountains of western North Carolina (and many other locales), often by myself, sometimes with one of my then-teen-aged children. I have always been aware of the dangers, especially when I am alone, but the joy in pursuing a narrow trail through the Pisgah Forest or standing in the open meadows of Graveyard Fields or playing in a waterfall has overcome whatever sense of caution I might have felt. The Lovely Daughter has talked of returning to her camp counseling job in North Carolina next summer, which would require a trip down there and offer an opportunity to hike in the mountains.
Perhaps no more. I am heartbroken for the young woman and her family, and angered for all of us who derive such sustenance from our time alone in the wild.
Closer to home, one of our sons, still living in his college city, was robbed and beaten up by three men Saturday night when he stepped outside a bar to make a phone call. I don't doubt that he could have been making better choices about his activities and movements that night, and I'm grateful that the only visible damage consists of cuts and bruises, broken glasses, and the stolen phone, cash, and credit card, but I am horrified and terrified by thoughts of what might have been. Where, I want to know, were his friends? He says that by the time he got himself up and re-oriented, the bar was closed and they had given up looking for him; he found a police cruiser to take him home. All the more frightening, to realize that, having been attacked by people with no regard for anything, he might have been abandoned in much worse shape in a deserted area of the city.
The Lovely Daughter leaves for London and Prague on Wednesday and her roommate's visa has not arrived. I would have been concerned about her travelling alone anyway, but my anxiety level has skyrocketed.
I am writing a paper and studying for four midterms next week. Needless to say, I am somewhat preoccupied.