Today I joined the search for a little 5-year old girl. Approximately 250 strangers from around the country joined together for two reasons....in hope of finding Haleigh or a clue to her whereabouts, and to let the family know that people cared.
I use the word stranger losely. Within seconds you were not a stranger to any of those immediately surrounding you. You were co-workers. The unity that occured because of the common purpose was astounding. People who you would normally pass in the local stores and not even acknowledge their presence were now asking each other "are you doing ok" and meaning it.
There was Joseph (the 19 year old slightly Gothic young man from Georgia who didn't have anything planned for the weekend so he came down to search) walking next to Marsha (the 50+ upper middle class woman who had a bad encounter with a stranger when she was 4). They were talking as if they were old friends.
Then there was Jan (the 40ish Buck knife toting, camoflage clothed, snake boot wearing, 9mm owner jokester of the group) whose motivation for being there stemmed from living in Caylee Anthony's neighborhood, who searched for Caylee and felt compelled to come search for Haleigh. She kept watch out for us less "prepared" women in the team, making sure none of us got left behind.
There was Diane, the leader of our 10 person team. Two months ago an elderly woman got lost in her neighborhood. There was an air search and a search by vehicles, but no ground search. She was found too late huddled under a bush for warmth. Diane committed then that if another person went missing within driving distance to her and a ground search was going on, she would join.
But over and over again the main motivation that was heard was simply that the person was a parent, and that if it was their child missing, they would want as many people out looking as possible.
The strategy was to stand in a long line, arms outstretched, hands overlapping your neighbors, then drop your arms. This was to gauge the distance to stay from each other. Or I should say the closeness to stay together. Then the command was given to walk forward, head down, looking for anything at all that did not belong there. We went 100 feet forward, then did an about face, and went a 100 feet back. Then the whole line of 200 plus people would shift to the left and repeat the process. I learned today that the woods that you see as you're driving down the road that look absolutly inpenetrable are not.
I also learned that in a time of crisis, the human spirit transcends all of the petty differences, judgements, and prejudices that we live with each day. The best in humanity comes out.
May Haleigh be found safe!