Laci Peterson: Faith, Hope & Love


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Laci Peterson: All That Remains Is Faith, Hope & Love

Long before the ultimatum was given to Saddam and the headlines became consumed with the War in Iraq, a beautiful young woman was seen smiling at us from every news broadcast, newspaper and news website.  Laci Peterson of Modesto, California dominated the media.  Her now infamous photo, with her open, laughing smile was everywhere.  Her disappearance on Christmas Eve of 2002 made even more tragic and poignant, not only by the twinkle in her eye, but by the baby she carried in her womb.

As a nation we watched as her family was plunged into the nightmare of "not knowing".  We were indignant on their behalf when her husband's marital indiscretions were brought to light.  As her parents begged for her safe return and their raw emotions bled onto our televisions, we stopped and said a prayer that their torment would end, that Laci and her baby would turn up alive and well.  And we watched as the town of Modesto, made famous a year before when Chandra Levy went missing, came together yet again to search, to question and to support. 

Then as the leads dried up, so did the media's interest.  Sad, but in their business, without the "sizzle" is it hard to sell the "steak".  And as their cameras went in search of the next scandal, next big scoop, we did what lack of personal involvement allows us to do, we followed.

And left the family, friends and supporters of Laci Peterson alone with only three things to hold onto: Faith, Hope and Love.

I have often wondered how one survives the unknown absence of a loved one.  How do you get from one day to the next, let alone from one breath to the next?  I have watched in awe as parents survive abductions, some ending in joy as with Elizabeth Smart, more often ending in despair as with Samantha Runnion and countless others.  Most recently, I have marveled at the composure, strength and conviction displayed by the families of the POWs in Iraq.  Facing not only the terror of "not knowing", they faced down the TV cameras intruding into their darkest hours, only to graciously welcome the same cameras in to share in their incredible joy as their loved ones were found alive.

They all speak of clinging to their faith, praying when the clouds threatened to consume them, never losing hope that they would be reunited, and concentrating on the love that a separation could not diminish.  They also speak of the love and support of those around them.

The family of Laci Peterson have been no different.  As the world has turned around them, war has broken out and been won, and one day has melted into the next, they have clung to their own faith, hope and love.  Not a moment has gone by when they have not prayed, searched, stopped hoping, stopped wishing and to quote Laci's mother, "stopped dreaming" of Laci's and baby Connor's safe return.

With the grim discovery of a female body and a full term fetus, washed up on the shore in Point Isabel Regional Park, eighty miles west of Modesto, Laci's face was brought back into the spotlight.  The "sizzle", it seems, is off Saddam.  And as we rejoined the national broadcast of her family's worst nightmare, we found that they continue to cling to three things, those three intangible, yet immensely powerful and sustaining words: Faith, Hope and Love.

The DNA testing of the bodies, a process which can take upwards of weeks, was worked on, to quote the Modesto Chief of Police, "24/7 since the discovery".   That round the clock effort has resulted in DNA confirmation, literally 1 in 9 billionths that the female is indeed Laci Peterson.  And a DNA match to both Laci and Scott Peterson, 1 in 18 billionths, confirming the baby to be Connor.

The family, who desperately needed, and desperately dreaded the answers, now has them.  The only word the police chief could use to describe their reaction upon the confirmation was "devastated".  The words spoken by Laci's stepfather upon discovery of the bodies still echo, "You want it to be, you don't want it to be.  We've got to have closure, but this isn't the closure we want."

Further adding to the incomprehension of this tragedy is the arrest of Scott Peterson.  Words like "husband and father" are almost blasphemous in the face of the crimes with which he is charged and will now be arraigned.  And if, in fact, he is guilty of this heinous act, this abomination, words such as "murderer, monster and sadistic" will prove far too kind.

As the family awaited the test results, we waited with them.  We will now watch them navigate the final stretch of their unchosen road, the grief and closure from the confirmation that Laci is never coming home.  And I guarantee you they will walk it with dignity, supported by faith, hope and love. 

Because in the end, that is all that truly remains.

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