If things were not already bad enough for Highland County seniors with their proms, graduations, last chance to compete athletically and more lost to the new coronavirus, the class took another hit Sunday when McClain High School senior Madison Bell went missing.
Really, Maddie’s family and close friends are bearing the brunt of the burden, but the ordeal seems like another blow this year’s seniors — especially those at McClain High School — should not have to weather.
I do not know Madison Bell. I do not know her family. But I do know I would not want to be standing in their shoes.
I would assume that sometime last week they thought things couldn’t get much worse. All the time-honored activities at the end of Madison’s senior year were been taken away, and for two months they had been dealing with COVID-19’s myriad other complications.
Then in the blink of an eye for those closest to the Greenfield 18-year-old, all those worries suddenly faded to nothing more than background noise. Because a daughter is missing, and a parent’s worst nightmare reared its head.
From what we’ve been told, Madison left her home around 10 a.m. Sunday to go to a tanning appointment. She never made it. Her unlocked car was found a few hundred yards from the tanning place, in a church parking lot with the keys in the ignition, the windows rolled up and her cell phone inside.
Madison’s mom says her daughter was a responsible girl, one who would check in if she was going to be even a few minutes late.
So by 11:22 a.m. Sunday, when Madison had not yet returned home from the tanning appointment, her mom called the Highland County Sheriff’s Office.
The search has been ongoing since.
I do not know how much a parent can be comforted at such a time, if at all, and I have long hoped I never know. But there must be at least a little solace to be gathered from the hundreds of Greenfield and residents from other communities who have turned out to help search, who have donated tables full of nourishment for the searchers, and for all the people that showed up for a candlelight vigil on Wednesday night.
Really though, when the candles dim, the crowd fades away, and a parent in such a situation is sitting all alone, is there anything that could dull the heartache?
I can’t think of any — other than a phone call saying the daughter has been found alive and well.
I hope that’s how this story turns out.
This is not unfamiliar territory in Highland County.
About a year and a half ago, a young Greenfield woman walked out of a hospital on her own after she been taken there complaining of pain following an arrest by the Greenfield Police Department. She made her way to a Hillsboro hotel. According to witnesses, she somehow fell through the hotel ceiling, may have been hurt in the process, and dashed into woods behind the hotel on a cold day. About a year later her remains were found not far from where she left the hotel.
About 10 years ago, the daughter of a former Hillsboro area minister disappeared in the Dayton area. Her car vehicle was found with a flat tire at a Kettering skate park. The keys were inside.
Her husband and 1-year-old daughter were at home. A nationwide search ensued.
A few weeks later the runaway woman was found safe and sound in Miami, Fla. We were told she had ran away “to start a new life.”
Later, during an emotional interview, her father said, “Just to know my little girl is safe is all I needed.”
Let’s all hope Madison Bell’s family can utter those same words soon.
Jeff Gilliland is the editor of The Times-Gazette. He can be reached at email@example.com or 937-402-2522.