Lost girls: An unsolved American Mistery by Robert Kolker tells the story of the four acknowledged and one suspected victims of the so-called Long Island Serial Killer.
Far from being a book centered on whodunnit, it focuses instead on the lives of the victims, and on the events that led them to face their fate. Finally, we are told the story of women, who were mothers, and sisters, and daughters, and not only, as mostly depicted by the press, escorts advertising on Craiglist.
We learn about the struggles they had to overcome, and that they were trying to overcome when their lives were taken too early; all of them working the only job they could find and that could pay enough to make ends meet and support their families.
We get to know their relatives, with their strengths and flaws, and their constant battle to shed light over the last minutes their mothers and sisters and daughters lived. An undefeatable quest for the truth, and to finally see the killer on trial and eventually convicted. Maybe this would give them some peace; I surely wish them all so.
But Megan, Melissa, Maureen, Amber, and Shannan (the latter not officially recognized by the police as a victim, and whose death has been controversially ruled as an accident), can be considered lucky, as Jessica, not mentioned in the book but whose remains were found near the others.
It sounds contradictory to define them – and their families, by proximity- lucky: but luck is a strange animal, and sometimes it hides in unusual places. Like the beach where their bodies were recovered, and where their families could leave a flower and a cross to remember them. Luck hides in a name, sometimes: a name that gives back to those rests their dignity, their integrity, their lives. A luck other victims, of the same killer or of someone else no one yet knows, had not yet been granted.
Yes, because lying close to Jessica, and Melissa, and Amber, and Megan, and Maureen, and Shannon, the police has found the remains of two more women, a boy, and a toddler, that no one has yet identified. They are Janes and John Does and Baby Doe, and it is not easy to decide whether is sadder that maybe no one is looking for them, or that someone is waiting for them.
If it is more heartbreaking that some families have forgotten their daughters, and son and granddaughter (can you really forget a baby girl?), or that somewhere a mother or a father, or a sister or a brother, and a grandpa and a grandma are expectantly looking outside the windows, anxiously waiting for their beloved to come home. That they jump every time the phone rings, hoping to hear the familiar voice on the other side of the line.
If it hurts more to imagine families that let life get in the middle, and severed all contacts, maybe over one of those fights that after a while no one remembers how they started, or thinking that there somewhere someone is craving for a hug they will never have.
In the era of mass communication, of constant social media updates, where every food eaten, every glass of wine drank, every encounter is portrayed for the benefit of an invisible audience, it is almost surreal to imagine someone fading into the background until they disappear.
But it happens, surreal or not.
Like it happens that a society that calls itself civilized, abandons its children to their destiny, alone in trying to get some food on the table or feed their own children. And then, the same society which did not provide them with the basic means to survive often shrugs its shoulders in front of their deaths with a “They were looking for it”.
No, no one is looking for it. Not literally, not figuratively. It is the same perverted logic that makes people ask “What were you wearing” to victims of rape.
What we are looking for, or we should all be looking for, is to live in a place where it doesn’t matter which job I am working, my death will be treated with respect. No matter how long or short is my skirt: if someone rapes me, he is to blame, not my dress code.
Eventually, we should only be demanding for a human society.