American writer Valerie Lopes wrote her thoughts back in September 2007.
I originally wrote this post in September 2007 when Madeleine McCann was everywhere and nowhere. I can still feel the anger that coursed through me over her unnecessary and tragic disappearance. She's just about my son's age which is probably one of the main reasons this story captured my attention as it did. The blatant stupidity of her parents still appalls me - somebody please explain to me why these people aren't in jail? I have yet to understand why the police have done nothing to punish these fools. I remember at the time having a conversation with my friend Cindy about this over coffee. In hushed tones - because it wasn't done at the time to condem the McCanns for neglect - we whispered to each other that never would we have left our children alone. What kind of parents could do that? The McCanns apparently.
There are two possibilities regarding the fate of Madeleine McCann. She's either dead or alive. The theist in me wants to believe that she is alive and that a miracle will occur. She will, unharmed – mentally physically emotionally – be returned to the bosom of her family. Where would Madeleine have had to of spent the past few months of her life for that to be the case? With some desperate childless woman that longed so greatly for a child that in a moment of wild insanity snatched a child? A senile fado singing Portuguese avo that doesn't own a television or radio that has plied Madeleine with gambas and natas. Or even, a la Elizabeth Smart, she's been hidden in plain site and it will only take one sharp eyed bystander to notice the coloboma in her eye and call the authorities whom will react swiftly bringing a happy enough ending to this tale. Perhaps.
In the words of Fiona in the Lerner and Loewe musical Brigadoon, “Anything is possible”. Unfortunately life isn't a musical and although the temptation to break into song as I meander down the street doing a modified two-step comes upon me more frequently than I would be comfortable admitting, nothing will change the fact we have little choice but to live in a world where horrible things happen to the innocent all of the time.
The theist in me also knows that evil exists. That's the payoff. Hot/Cold. Light/Dark. Good/Evil. Evil comes in as many names as good so call it what you will. If Madeleine McCann is still alive I shudder to think of the kind of hell she's living in. Old enough to comprehend she is not with her parents and her siblings. Frightened. Abused. Neglected. Tortured. The byproducts of evil.
So, we know what her two possible fates are. If she is alive we hope for the best, but common sense and history tell us that it is the worst that is the most reasonable assumption. If she is dead how did she go from being a thriving living child on vacation in Portugal to a mournful statistic?
Again, we are offered two possibilities. Foul play or tragic accident. The theory that screams the loudest, is the sexiest and carries the biggest thrill is that she was kidnapped. Not just plain old kidnapped, but by a gang of “kidnap to order” specialists out the fill a sinister bill of goods. Boogiemen.
The second possibility. A tragic accident. The theory that is whispered between women with small Madeleine aged children generally accompanied with a disclaimer along the lines of I hate to judge them, but... or Those poor people, but... or What kind of parents leave their children unattended... The facts that stun all of us mothers with tiny ones. They left their children unattended in an unlocked room in a place that was unfamiliar to them when there was a babysitting service available. Pamela Fenn, who lives in the flat above the McCann's, had told police that on the Tuesday night before the disappearance that she had heard Madeleine crying for about 75 minutes before her parents returned from dinner. The night Madeleine disappeared was not the first time she and her two two year old siblings had been left unattended by their parents. Madeleine was, according to family and friends, a bright child that was curious and fearless.
Occam's razor teaches us that all things being equal, the simplest solution tends to be the best one. The simple solution that is whispered at play dates and over free coffee at IKEA in hushed tones as if speaking the obvious about the McCann's will somehow diminish the tragedy of the disappearance of their child is that through their carelessness and neglect their child died tragically. Let's just say, for example, Madeleine woke from her little-girl sleep to an empty room for the second (possibly more) night in a row. She was frightened. The same fright that caused her to cry for over an hour the previous night. She was alone in a strange place without her mother, father or any kind of an adult to offer her comfort and reassurances that she was not alone and there was nothing to be afraid of. For, in truth, she was alone and obviously there was something to be afraid of. When she knew comfort would not come to her she sought it out. She got up from her bed, walked out through the unlocked door in search of her parents, wandered about confused and lost in the unfamiliar place, her vision possibly impaired by the genetic abnormality that has been so well documented, the sound of the surf crashing into the sand... Suffice it to say a little girl wandering alone coming into contact with the Atlantic Ocean in the dark of night does not make for a happy ending.
When we hear of a story like Madeleine's we want to believe the best and the worst not the boring facts. That she will be saved and that it was some lamia-demon snatching children from the comfort and safety of their bed that was the culpriet. Not that a tragic set of circumstances created out of neglect, selfishness and inestimable foolishness equaled the death of a child. It's too clean. Too annoyingly sterile. It lacks drama and only contains sadness. Going out with a whimper and a sigh instead of a shout and a bang.
What can be taken from this? I hope something. Perhaps, without anyone ever knowing, countless children have been spared injury, maiming and yes, death, because one story of inadequate parenting made such a loud bang. Hopefully one set of parents that might have just “locked them in” while they went out to munch on tapas and toss back rose thought twice and paid the twenty euros for the babysitting service.