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
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
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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