It was a grey cool day a few weeks back when I, along with the editor of The Vidette, Steven Friederich, walked the back streets of McCleary. Both of us knew this anniversary date would be approaching shortly. I don’t want to speak for Steven, but I am sure he felt the same unease about walking the last known path of still missing Lindsey Baum.
To remind the reader, Steven was working for The Daily World in Aberdeen when little Lindsey went missing that dark day five years ago. He quickly became one of the point men at the newspaper during the subsequent investigation. He talked with everyone, camped out with the gathering media, grew to know the family, the town, and the various law enforcement agencies.
Together, we walked on the last known path of Lindsey Baum.
In the scope of things that go on around us in the world, one could point to many other instances of the inhuman nature of man. I don’t know why, but this case is different. Perhaps, it is just because it hits so close to home. There is, of course, the constant reminders of Lindsey that we see around us daily — in the local gas station, other places. The community has not forgotten about her. Nor should we. We arrived in McCleary and parked at Beerbower Park, next to the police station. At the north end of the park is now a formal remembrance area. It’s brick and landscaped with a small tree. It was donated by someone, but I can’t remember the name. I remember the tree, and the odd small bunch of three wildflowers placed on the edge of the bronze marker dedicated to Lindsey, located in the center of the bricks. The wind had swept the memorial with dust, twigs, and the remnants of our winter storms, giving it an appearance of age to the area. I like to think that the picked flowers were placed there by a school mate. I don’t know. The important thing is that she is remembered.
Turning away from the park you notice a billboard-type sign placed prominently on the street corner. A smiling Lindsey greets everyone and serves as a formal reminder that she is still missing. There isn’t a day that goes by that each and every resident of McCleary does not think about her.
I asked Steven to take me to the street she was last known to be on. It wasn’t far and we walked. It was just one street off the main street through town. At a modest house where her friend lived, buttressed up against woods, Lindsey began walking home, a scant few blocks away. No more than a half a mile away. Down the paved wide street with modest well kept houses on either side she walked — and was never seen again.
Although it was getting late in the evening as she began walking, the summer sun was fighting to give up on its hold on the day. The street was still well lit. As Steven and I walked the street, in an eastward direction toward what was then Lindsey’s house, I noticed windows open and people in the homes. A little dog was running in a yard checking out the two strange men walking in the road. Cars would, here and there, go by either past us or up and down at the next intersection. And the walk continued on like that. Until we got to the spot about four blocks away from the home of her friend that she had just left and our starting point. Steven stopped, turned to me, and told me that we were standing on the exact spot that she was last seen apparently by a local resident that knew her and had driven by. From that spot on, there was never a confirmed sighting again. Somehow, we were standing in the middle of the street. I don’t know why. We just were. Only a short couple of blocks further and she would have been in full view of the busy entrance into town and the security cameras present at the gas station, next door to the police station. She was never caught on film. Go another hundred or so feet north, and the busy main street itself was waiting. It wasn’t far. Just a short, perhaps one or two minute walk — as children walk.
How do you describe the feeling of being in that spot? We didn’t talk much for a minute or two. We started looking around. Up that street, down that one. Around at the houses and business that was on the corner. How? How does a young girl go missing in this spot? How does she vanish in the middle of the town in daylight?
Human nature being what it is, of course we theorized. The fact remains, no one knows.
What can we do? You and I. Remember her. Hope that these reminders jog someone’s memory, perhaps someone knows something. Maybe it is important that we just remember.
Tom Frederiksen grew up in Montesano and lives here today with an active blog at montesanotoday.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.