I saw a small wooden cross tied to a tree when coming up 101 towards Petaluma. The traffic was bumper to bumper. I was in the passenger seat and happened to glance towards the trees. I saw it there, lonely, askew, some flowers wilted, tied there. Evidence of a loss from another time, a memorial. It was here it happened, someone wanted to say. It was here. I lost him here.
The news is full of missing planes and sunken ferries, but it’s really about missing passengers. There are so many parallels to the loss of my father in a lake in Argentina eight years ago. It was front page in Argentina, but didn’t make the news here. A large tour company hired a smaller boat because the tour was overbooked. The small tour boat was in disrepair. It took on water just 10 minutes off Bariloche. The boat started to sink. Everyone got off the boat, except my father. Including the captain, like the Korean ferry demise.
Like the plane disaster, the search for my father was full of politics and disagreement, his between Chile and Argentina. Bickering, promises, false hopes and off-the-wall comments plagued us, too. There was even a side scanner engaged like the one used to look for the plane. As I watched it on television, watched the scanner move through the water, I wondered if they might find my father, too. You never stop hoping, wishing in the most impossible ways, even years after the loss.
After almost a year of searching, they didn’t find him. We never got his body back.
As I watch and listen to the news I am sitting with all those victims’ families waiting, hoping, wishing and wanting to say to those searching, those in the media, “It is someone’s father, mother, brother, best friend, sister, daughter waiting as I did, who will always, always suffer from this loss. Careful what you say and what you do. They are in your hands. Be thorough and kind.”
“Please, please find them if you can.”
Appeared on KQED Perspectives