Saying Goodbye

I’m not sure how to start this post.  I guess the best way, is just to start from the beginning…

On January 21, 2013 I logged into my Facebook page {as always} and saw a “Missing Person” picture posted multiple times on my Timeline.  It wasn’t from someone I knew, but the person tagged in the ‘flyer’ was.  It was my friend Joey.  At first, I thought it was a joke.  I clicked on it and read the words:

“Last Seen Sat Jan 19th, 2013 Leaving a Party In *****,
Please Contact G* Police Department
With Any Information On His Whereabouts.”

Then, I saw another two similar posts pop up, with different pictures of Joey.  An hour later, a page had been created titled “Missing Person: Joey *****, PLEASE FIND ME”.  I ‘liked’ the page to read the details, and my thought of the cruel flyer became all too true… My friend Joey was truly missing.  All day posts came up on my TL with updates, pictures of him, and details about where he was the night he disappeared.  A story was published in an online local paper, and finally over 24 hours after his reported disappearance  the police dispatched a helicopter in the air for a search.  However, at that time it was already past 7 PM, and too dark for them to find anything.  The scariest part, was knowing at this point in time, with my EMS knowledge, and the weather being anywhere from 9* to -7* during the time he was missing, my worries only grew the longer I knew he was missing.

*Joey had been out with friends the night of the 19th, hitting up a local bar in town.  Him and his group of friends took a cab to a party 4.4 miles away.  Conflicting stories state that Joey either A) Never even made it into the house, but left on foot…. and B) that Joey was there for 20 minutes and then went outside, and was not seen again after 1:15 AM Sunday. **Joeys friends, and cellphone records indicate that shortly after 1:15 AM, he made a call to friends at the party, saying he was lost and cold.  They searched for him, unsuccessfully and returned to the party.  A call was made around 3 AM to an unnamed female friend.  Shortly after his phone went dead.

When I heard the latest update, I naively picked up my phone and called him, half expecting it to ring and to hear his goofy voice on the other end….  No ringing, just voice-mail   My heart sank a little deeper.  I kept checking for updates the rest of the night, and as soon as I woke up the next morning (the 22nd), I immediately checked Facebook.  Still no word on Joey.  A search party had been put together consisting of family and friends, as well as a few police officers.  I got to work and cried to my coworkers that I felt like I was in the wrong place, and told them about my friend and the search party that was starting in 2 hours.  All day I checked my Facebook, and around 10:30 AM, a post was made that “Police had ‘found’ something” but weren’t saying what.

I pulled up the CAD notes on my phone (I have access to them as an EMT) {THERE WAS NO INTENTION TO VIOLATE HIPPA or SOCIAL MEDIA RULES ATTACHED} to see if I could find anything out from the “Active Police” calls.  Before I even had time to switch over from the Fire/EMS calls, I noticed a rescue call at the location of the area they were searching.  My heart started to race before I clicked on the call.  When I did, I read what I had feared.  The body of a missing person had been recovered, not conscious and not breathing.  The ambulance was returned and the coroner requested.  Joey was found in a treeline in a small private airport 5 miles from his home, and less than a mile away from the party he had last been seen at.

My eyes welled with tears and I had to excuse myself outside to bawl and smoke a cigarette to try to regain my composure.  20 minutes later, the MISSING PERSON page for him and declared his body found, and hours later it was published in the media that it was positively ID’d as him.  Guilt immediately consumed me as I felt like one of the first people to find out that Joey had left us.

As more details came to light, and the more I thought about the while situation… the angrier I got.  Why didn’t his friends search longer?  Why did they give up?  Why didn’t they call 911?  Why did he get served at the bar (he’s only 20)?  Why are the stories conflicting?  Who is scared, hiding something?  Why did it take so long to get a helicopter in the air?  Why wasn’t a search party put together sooner?  Why did he leave on foot, wearing nothing but a HOODIE AND JEANS???  Maybe he was drunk, no… his BAC was only .09…  Yeah, he could’ve been high too… but still.  Joey wasn’t an idiot.  Some pot and a BAC of .09 wouldn’t make him retarded.  I keep going back to the conflicting stories, and why his friends didn’t even tell his family until 11 PM on the 20th that he disappeared.  Toxicology won’t come back for another almost 4 weeks, but the coroner was able to conclude one simple thing… Hypothermia.

Why? Why?  Why?  WHY? WHY? WHY?

It’s the 26th.  I got home from the Memorial Service a few hours ago.  I didn’t even get to see him one last time, his family had him cremated and his remains were set on a table centered between pictures of him.  I sat and listened to the preacher talk and watched others cry as I wiped my own tears from my cheeks.  I couldn’t think, my mind was blank…  After the service, I left.  My mom sitting next to me weeping in the car, feeling like she upset his mother with her comments (they unbeknownst to me, knew each other).  My mind suddenly started working again, flashing to all the other friends I’ve lost at-soon-of-an-age, and how I watched their parents sit lost and heartbroken at unexpected funerals.  I began thinking about my own mother, and how I know she couldn’t handle it if I were to die suddenly.  I remembered the guidelines I had written after my friend Rachel’s death.  Morbid to some, but to me a necessity for my mother if something ever happened to me at a young age.

On the way home, I decided it was time to find that written help-guide I had made, and update it.  I don’t ever want to have my mother to go through what I saw Rachel’s parents, Jessica’s parents, Joeys parents… and all the other parents I’ve watched say goodbye to their children.

For now, I’m left of my memories of Joey…  The time he took care of me at the bar when I had chest pains… All the times we passed each other while driving, and the goofy smile on his face and the cock of his head saying “Whats up?”…  The funny way he walked when he was busy at work, rushing around…  Running into him on the little lake in our neighborhood, him fishing and me walking my dog.  His sideways smile, his mischievous, squinty eyes, his sweet personality… the list will just go on…

2 Responses to Saying Goodbye

  1. Jim says:

    Leah. I’m so sorry. I have been wondering all week how you’ve been handling it.

    • I’ve been handling it fine. I went to the service (he was cremated and the burial, or whatever they are doing with the ashes is private). Now, I can move forward. It was just sad to be reminded of all my past friends who have died, and to see it happen all over again. I’ll be okay.

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