Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Where are you Asha?

Asha Degree went missing February 14, 2000 from Shelby, North Carolina. Yvonne and I had the unfortunate chance of living in Shelby at the time. Very scary stuff when something like this happens so close to home.

(age 10, around the time of her disappearance)

Yvonne taught at the school Asha attended and one of her good friends was Asha’s teacher. She took it hard. Real hard. And I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Yvonne gets a call in the next 2 or 3 weeks from her friend.

(age 14, after age progression)

What really upsets me about this case are two particular things, the night she disappeared and the media.

The night she disappeared, there was a storm in the county. Some say she left the house because she was afraid, but that makes no sense to me. Her father last saw her in bed at 2:30 am. No big deal there. But the fact that a motorist saw her walking along the road at 4 am strikes me as disturbing. A ten year old girl, walking along the road, at 4 am. Would you not call the cops or stop yourself to see if she’s alright? She was alone and you didn’t think to say something? Does Fallston Road (aka Route 18) look like a place for a little girl to be walking alone? I’m not sure how these witnesses are sleeping these days, but I can only hope they’ve made peace with themselves and the Degree family.

The media is the other aspect of the case that disturbs me. We’ve progressed a lot since 2000 in our technology and in the reporting of missing children via Amber Alerts. But why does the media continue to focus on missing children that are white? Yes, Shelby is a rural area that some may think of as a little on the racist side. But in my experience, they didn’t really care what race you were. Whites and blacks got along just fine. The only prejudice I experienced was religious. If you weren’t a Baptist, they tended to look down on you. So I don’t see this story as being “forgotten” by the media of the area.

In fact, I remember the local paper (The Shelby Star) as covering the story quite frequently. But the national media never picked up on it much. What a shame that a white girl can go missing while on vacation at the beach in a foreign country and garners more attention that a little black girl walking down the road by herself.

I’ll end this public service announcement with a final link to the Asha Degree and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children sites. Interesting that the later has a link to Heroes star Hayden Panettiere (the cheerleader) doing a promo for Teen Online Safety site 2SMRT4U.

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