MOUNT VERNON — The tragic events of this past week, the kidnapping of Sarah Maynard and the murder of her brother, Kody, mother, Tina Herrmann, and family friend Stephanie Sprang, have rekindled unpleasant memories for many, including local author Karen Beaudin.
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Currently in New Hampshire for book signings, Beaudin said she followed the news of the disappearances, and it broke her heart, since she knows what the families have been going through. Thirty-nine years ago, Beaudin’s sister, Kathy, went missing on her way to the store [in New Hampshire where they lived at the time]. “Kathy was 13, the same age as Sarah Maynard,” Beaudin said. “And this is Kathy’s anniversary month. Nov. 21 is when she disappeared 39 years ago. It really struck home when I heard what happened, and I remember the panic we went through. Kathy went missing that night, and she was found brutally murdered the following day, late in the afternoon.
“When you go through an ordeal like this, there are little things that you are thankful for,” Beaudin continued. “We were fortunate that she was found. That is important for the family to have that and to have a proper burial. Never having that settled, having someone still missing, is very difficult to live with.”
Beaudin was only 15 years old when Kathy was murdered and well understands what Sarah and Kody’s classmates and friends are going through. She had some words of advise for our community.
“Back in 1971,” she said, “people didn’t talk about things like a child missing. That was not good, growing up, holding it all inside and not being able to talk about it. ... I really think as a community you need to come together and talk about it. Don’t be afraid that it is something that should be unspoken.”
Beaudin said it is important for children to talk about what has happened, and for the adults around them to be honest about what happened.
“We always try to lighten it up. People say, ‘they passed away.’ No, they were murdered,” Beaudin said. “You don’t need to get gruesome, but you need to call it what it is. Children are smart. With what they see on TV or on video games, they understand killing and murder. They want to know the truth, and when you try to go around the truth, they are going to find it somewhere, because they want to know.”
Children, Beaudin said, sometimes need to be encouraged to talk about what they are feeling. “You may have to ask questions and get them to talk. I think most children have a tendency to hold everything inside. Especially in the society that we live in now with texting and e-mail, the whole communication skills that we used to have are really broken down. If they won’t talk, it’s good for them to write things out. I believe writing things out is very therapeutic. It’s a release to be able to write your feelings out, even if nobody reads them. Once you have written those things out, you can put them away somewhere and just continue to do that when you feel like you need to do that. It is a great release of emotions.
“The other thing is, don’t be afraid to cry. Crying is very cleansing. Sometimes even for me, at this point in my life, sometimes when I think of everything that has happened and all I have been through, the whole journey ... Sometimes you just break down and have this good cry. Let it all out and release those emotions. You need to do that absolutely. Don’t hold it in.
“I think doing a vigil for the kids, friends and classmates, is a good thing. Just bringing them together. Just events like that where you feel like you have a purpose and you’re helping them in some way. That will help them get through some of this.”
Beaudin, speaking again from personal experience, said her main concern is the possible depression and thought of suicide in bereaved family members and friends. “People need to be very aware of the signs of depression and suicide in their kids,” she said. “That is very important. They need to know the signs because it’s not uncommon that some of these children will really have a difficult time and actually think about it. ... Because the pain is so intense, especially probably in the immediate family.
“When you’re in pain and it’s so intense, you feel like it will never end. That’s how it is in the beginning. You absolutely think it will never end, that this is the way life is going to be for the rest of your life, and it is never going to let up and it is never going to end. You’re looking for some way to make it stop. After Kathy was killed, as a child I did try to make it stop. ... For anyone, adult or child, who has experienced something horrific in their life, all of these things that happened in the Mount Vernon area will bring all those memories back again. Watch out for one another.
“Be aware that these things can happen and you must be careful. If you see something that is out of the ordinary, something that is unusual or peculiar, don’t be afraid — or think it’s silly — to call the police. That’s what they are there for.”
Beaudin said her faith in God has played an important part in how she looks at life, and how she handles things now. “That is another way people can come together,” she said.
To the survivors, Beaudin says, “Never, never, never give up. With what you have been through in your life, you have a purpose. Find out what it is and then pursue it.”
Beaudin’s purpose has been to write a book about her experiences, “A Child is Missing,” but most importantly to do what she can to help others in similar situations.
“I feel like I have a kindred spirit with this little girl Sarah,” concluded Beaudin, “just from what she’s gone through. And I believe, with what bravery she has already shown, that someday she’s going to be used in a mighty way. I believe that, and I’m praying for her. I hope that somehow a door is opened that I might be able at some point to speak with her and encourage her and give her a hug.”