Umass Magazine Online Fall 2004

Missing Maura - seeking peace

By Katy LaConte


ON FEB. 9, UMASS AMHERST SENIOR Maura Murray left campus and headed north. At around 7 p.m. she got into a car accident on rural Route 112 in Haverhill, N.H. The damage was minor. A local man stopped and offered her assistance but she declined. He called the police anyway. When the police arrived 10 minutes later, her car was locked. Her belongings were still inside. Maura was gone.

Dear Maura,

Who would miss me if I were gone? It’s a question that I’ve asked myself when I’m depressed. It speaks about the fascination we all have with life and death. As morbid as it may seem, that’s why so many are interested in your story. They’re drawn to it. Your story is so personal, yet universal. Your face has been in the minds of all who love you, and on the lips of so many who never even knew you. So if you were to ask yourself ‘who would miss you?’ the answer would be simple.

I remember the first time I saw you looking back at me. It was from your missing persons poster on the wall. I saw you as I waited in line at the campus Dunkin’ Donuts. My campus. Your campus, too. I wondered if you’d waited in this very line. I looked harder at the picture as I waited, trying to pull out the exact change from my wallet for a hot chocolate. You wore a black button-down shirt and your hair was pulled back in a ponytail. Eyes: blue-green. Hair: brown. Weight: approx 115 lbs. Your attributes were listed as if on a rap sheet. Height: 5' 7", just one inch taller than me. Age 21, like me. Last seen wearing a dark-colored coat. I found myself wondering ridiculous things, like are you one of those girls who always wears her hair in a ponytail? Do you think you look best in dark colors and wear them often, or is it just a coincidence that you wore them in both this picture as well as the last time you were seen? Whose shoulder is that in the picture, who got cut out? Did that person make you smile like that or is that your picture-taking smile? I imagined you the last time that anyone saw you. And then suddenly you’re gone from the picture in my head, now just an empty dark road, eerily lit by falling snow. Your car abandoned. I get a chill.

All this from seeing your poster. All this from a stranger. I can only imagine what your family must be feeling. At one point they even moved into a hotel close to where your car was found, just in case. They’ve agonized over the details. They still do. They rifled through your belongings, searching for clues, anything to tell them what happened to you. Your father searched for you 14 weekends straight. You were lost in the snow. Spring came and went. Now we’re into the humid days of summer. This past weekend is the first time that your Dad took a weekend off. People you’ve never met are left wondering. You’ve become famous for all the wrong reasons. The question isn’t who is missing you, but rather, who isn’t.