Sunday, June 12, 2005


Natalee Holloway is pictured in this "Missing" poster distributed in Aruba

On Sunday May 30, 18-year-old Alabama high school senior Natalee Holloway disappeared from her graduating class trip to the tropical island of Aruba. She was last seen getting into a car outside "Carlos & Charlie's", a nightclub where she and her supposedly-chaperoned classmates were celebrating their graduation.[1]

One week later, on June 5, two hotel security guards were arrested after being implicated by the three young men with whom Natalee had left the club. On Thursday June 9, the three locals who had initially been witnesses against the two suspects, were arrested for suspicion in Natalee's disappearance. Saturday morning Aruban officials confirmed that human blood had been discovered in the car, implicating probable foul play on the part of the three young suspects[1], but the discovery was later retracted as the substance turned out to not be blood.[2] If indeed Natalee has been killed, this would be the first murder in Aruba in two years.[3]

This story would be disturbing enough, but I am very concerned with the sequence of events that I believe allowed, through gross negligence, this tragedy to happen. Here are the facts as they have been reported:

These high-school seniors were alone, unsupervised in a bar on a tropical island where Engish is not the primary, secondary, or even third or fourth language. Chaperones were on the island with the students, but they apparantly were not doing their job very sufficiently if one of their students was able to leave the bar with three strangers.

I don't mean to sound like a prude, but this whole scenario escapes reason with me. The whole process of events that lead up to Natalee's disappearance is ripe with behavior that completely defies common sense. I don't mean to impugn anybody's character, but there seems to be huge gaping lapses in judgment in this case.

First of all, what in the world were these students doing unsupervised in a bar on this island? The legal drinking age in Aruba is eighteen[6][8], but these students come from a culture and legal system where the legal drinking age is twenty-one. Many of these students had probably never tasted alcohol before their trip to Aruba. Now they were left unsupervised in a foreign bar completely at the mercy of a mind-altering substance and natives who may or may not have been a threat? How could any responsible adult allow these minors to participate in what Aruba's Minister of Justice described as "a wild drinking party".[4] It's insane, and it's no wonder that a tragedy like this would be the outcome.

Cases in point: May 2005 - "22-yr-old Oregon State University student Gina Zolonardo's body is found just yards away from a houseboat she'd been partying on just days before."[5] January 2004 - "18-yr-old high school cheerleader Lauren Crossman... falls nine floors from her hotel balcony to her death. Police say it was an accident, but confirm she and her friends were drinking alcohol at the time of the fall."[5] May 2002 - "21-yr-old Michael Norman from Connecticut falls to his death off a hotel balcony. Witnesses say the University of Hartford student had been drinking all night. According to the U.S. Consul, during that year's Spring Break, American students accounted for 2 deaths, 260 arrests, 4 injuries, and a rape."[5] And now Natalee Holloway disappears after a drinking party in Aruba.

Secondly, it was reported that 39 of the 40 chaperones returned to the United States with the other 124 students after Natlalee didn't show up for her flight home.[6][7] One chaperone stayed behind to wait for Natalee to show up.

Natalee Holloway apparantly was a straight-A student, so she wasn't stupid. But when an otherwise-intelligent young lady is exposed to a mind-altering substance such as alcohol for the first time, she may make decisions that defy her better judgment. Natalee was still a minor by her society's standards and her guardians (in this case, the chaperones) were responsible for protecting her. So regardless of whether she left with the three young men voluntarily, Natalee was not at fault here; she was the victim all around -- first of irresponsible and negligent adults in whom she and her parents had entrusted her safety, and secondly to whomever may be involved in her actual disappearance.

I hate to focus attention on finger-pointing when Natalee's condition and whereabouts are still unknown, but parents around the world need to be made aware that these dangers potentially await their children as well. As Natalee's mother said in an interview with Geraldo Rivera, "Natalee represents everyone's daughter..."[9] The search for Natalee Holloway continues and we must pray for her safe return, but we must also take measures to insure that this tragedy is not repeated with another young, naïve victim.



[1] "FOX Report w/ Rick Folbaum", FOX News Channel, 06/11/05, 7:00 pm ET
[2] "FOX News Live", FOX News Channel, 06/12/05, 6:30 pm ET
[3] "FOX News Alert", FOX News Channel, 06/11/05, 5:00 pm ET
[4] Rudy Croes (Aruban Minister of Justice), Interview with Geraldo Rivera, "FOX Report w/ Rick Folbaum", FOX News Channel, 06/11/05, 7:00 pm ET
[5] "Spring Break Dangers", "At Large with Geraldo Rivera", FOX News Channel, 06/04/05, 10:00 pm
[6] Mark Fuhrman, former LAPD Homicide Detective, ibid.
[7] "On the Record with Greta Van Susteren", FOX News Channel, 06/06/05, 10:00 pm ET
[8] Mark Fuhrman, former LAPD Homicide Detective, ibid.
[9] Beth Holloway-Twitty, Interview with Geraldo Rivera, "At Large with Geraldo Rivera", Live from Palm Beach, Aruba, FOX News Channel, 06/11/05, 10:00 pm ET


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