Desperately Seeking A Lesson In Cleveland

I don’t know whether to celebrate or mourn.

The news from Cleveland is both every parent’s hope (missing children found alive) and worst nightmare (eleven years of suffering at the hands of monsters.) It leaves me relieved and sickened. As I have done since the day my son was born, I keep imagining myself in the shoes of the parents who have worried over Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight since they disappeared about a decade ago.

“It’s the best feeling I’ve ever had, keep hope, keep hope, because I never gave up,” Amanda’s father told "Good Morning America" this morning. He didn't? How do you live like that -- hoping, yet not daring to hope? Which is more painful, believing your daughter dead or believing her alive and somehow kept from coming home?

I am riveted by this story, and I also cannot bear to hear about it. I sit at my keyboard wanting to say something -- find a lesson, a moral, a bit of advice --and have both too much and nothing at all to say. This tale taps our primal fear of the unknown and the possibility that our children will topple into it, out of our sight but not our minds. That’s why some news transfixes us, and some, equally horrific, does not; we are drawn toward things we can imagine happening to us, yet at the same time cannot possibly imagine happening at all. It’s why we were mesmerized by the Boston marathon bombing more than the Texas fertilizer explosion, why we are drawn to the Cleveland kidnappings more than the Bangladesh building collapse.

How do we even begin to find words for what happened to those girls locked in a basement for all those years? Revolting. Or for the fact that neighbors were so close, yet so distant? Chilling. The thought that the 6-year-old child born of this horror was being “home”-schooled by her mother in the windowless room she couldn’t leave? Incomprehensible. The road back faced by the young women and their families -- the nightmares, the regret, the bittersweet reintroduction to someone you thought was lost to you for good? Unthinkable.

And because it is unthinkable, it is all I can think about.