Thursday, December 23, 2010

Shades Of Natalee

After being a mom for the past 27+ years, the times to get away "kid-free" have been  few and far between. Since becoming "empty-nesters" my husband and I have had more opportunities to have "adult" get-aways and have some let-loose, let your hair down fun!

In 2010, we were presented with one such opportunity with a trip to Vegas staying at  the Luxor! We normally stay at Stateline or somewhere that fits our budgetary restraints and have never found ourselves in the position to stay on the strip. So, Luxor demanded that we pack accordingly for some fun...and I did !!!

BUT.....before we can take advantage of the room and all of it's incredible amenities, I wanted to take some time to visit with my cousin,  Liz. Liz is six months my junior and I just don't get to see her enough; maybe once or twice a year, at best. So, Liz had met up with us and had accompanied us to dinner and came back to our room afterwards to chat. Jim watched some TV, crawled under the covers while my cousin and I got caught up on life, kids, work, etc.

At some point way past midnight, after laughing until we cried, she reluctantly said she had to go home as she had an early morning union meeting she absolutely had to attend. I let Jim know that I was going to walk Liz to the parking garage and I'd be right back. He grunted, half asleep, and rolled over . He was probably pretty certain that there was no excitement for him at the ol' Luxor that night...

Liz and I laughed all the way to the entrance to the parking garage, I hugged her good-bye and promised to stand by and wait for a call from her informing me that she had made it to her vehicle okay.

While I was waiting for her call, I took in all the activity around me; which was a lot! What we didn't realize when we booked this vacation, was that it coincided  with Spring Break 2010! There were college-aged students everywhere; drinking, partying, laughing...everyone was really having a great time.

Except for one girl. A young girl, perhaps 19 years of age. A pretty girl, with blond hair. She had certainly dressed to party, yet was strikingly modest compared to the other college girls that had partied on the strip that night. This girl was far past the party stage of inebriation, she was devoting every ounce of energy into just standing and not falling flat on her face. She had propped herself up against the end of the staircase and  simply looked lost.

While I waited to hear from my cousin, I watched this girl out of the corner of my eye and was quick to notice that I was not the only one watching her. Minute after minute she was approached by groups of two to three college boys (and sometimes grown, older men) wanting her to go with them to a party, or just upstairs, or to their friend's room. While her legs would buckle and her world was spinning, she would decline, but they were persistent, trying to wear her down. And it almost worked.

I already knew I wouldn't have let her go off with a group of men; not in the state she was in. If she had accepted any offer, I would have intervened.  I watched her fight off the advances just a bit longer until I received that phone call and then I took action. I approached her and let her know that I wanted to help her. It took a while for her to trust me, but she began speaking with me and opened up. I learned that she had a room at the Luxor with some friends from her college in Colorado.

Friends. I use the term loosely. Her friends had taken her to another casino, assisted her in getting drunk, and left her; abandoned her. She had no purse, no money, no phone, no room key; nothing. She had no way to get back to the Luxor, so she had accepted a ride from s stranger. When I found her she had just been dropped off in the parking structure by "some man" that told her he'd give her a ride. And this is when she started to lose her composure.

Oh, hell. I can only imagine what happened to her on that ride from the other casino with a strange man. I didn't know what he'd possibly given her, or possibly done to her against her will. And what was worse, she honestly didn't know either.

With a bit of motherly persuasion, I convinced the girl to follow me to the front desk to see if we could get her a room key so I could put her to bed and get her away from the still swarming college asshats who saw nothing but an easy lay awaiting them if they could just get her to their "parties".

She knew her room number and even knew the names of her room mates. But, her name wasn't on the reservation, so she was not permitted to be issued a room key or entry to the room. No room, no phone numbers of anyone to call, no family, 600 miles from home...nothing. She was informed that she couldn't sleep in the hallway or public areas or she would be arrested. She was barely hanging on and had nowhere to go; desperation hung in the air.

And this is where I had one of my greatest, or arguably my stupidest, moments.

I boldly informed the front desk to leave a message on her room phone notifying her "friends" that this girl would be in my room recovering. I then instructed  them to have housekeeping bring up extra blankets and pillows for the girl; that I'd make her a bed on the floor. I could see the concern in the desk clerk's face. I was really putting myself out on a limb here and he knew it.

But as I looked into that young girl's glossed-over eyes, and listened to her tell me how she had no family, no friends, how she's basically trapped in an apartment in Denver with room mates who expected "things from her" in exchange for rent, but it's her only hope of getting through school,  I realized that this truly was a lost girl in need of help. I could have left her in the registration area to fend for herself, but the wolves were waiting to strike. I couldn't leave her. If I would have woken up the next morning to learn of a girl being raped / murdered / left for dead in the parking garage knowing that I could have prevented it, I would never have been able to forgive myself. So parenting took over; fun adult time would have to wait for another day.

In my absence, Jim had prepared the room for our sin-city encounter, and was waiting for me when I returned. He was completely sans clothing and was donning merely a sheet.  I'm sure you can imagine the look of utter shock on my husband's face when I walked in the room with a drunken coed. He had that look that said, "what. the. frick. are. you. doing? Have. you. lost. your. mind?" A few stern looks and a brief, hushed explanation and Jim was in instant father mode, completely concerned for this girl and the situation she was in.

While my husband managed to get dressed, I made the girl a bed on the floor. I placed the trash can near her head in case she felt like getting rid of all of that alcohol, and a box of tissue. She curled up in her blanket and assured me that she wasn't going to throw up. Instead, she asked for permission to cry. That broke my heart. All she wanted was permission to cry. I told her she could cry all she needed and that she was safe now.  I know something bad had really happened to her on that ride back to the hotel.

She cried herself to sleep; soft sobs coming from under her blanket in the corner. Jim and I took turns keeping watch all night long. Parenting. Caring. Worried... both for her and for the situation we were now in. We watched to make sure she was still breathing. We watched to make sure she didn't end up suffocating in her own vomit. We watched to make sure we weren't being set up to be robbed. Jim slept under the covers, while I slept on top of the covers. We didn't want to give her any reason to feel uncomfortable, or any reason to point an accusing finger of wrong-doing in our direction.

It was a long, sleepless night. Not once did her "friends" call to check on her.

When she woke up in the morning, she was a bit disoriented, confused and scared. The presence of Jim in the room alarmed her.  When Jim assured to her that she was safe and we were glad she was okay, she blankly looked him in the face and said that she was just glad to be alive. That was all she said. There was silence, sadness, defeat. Her statement left us speechless. She was just happy to be alive. Wow.

She slowly pulled herself together, quietly thanked us and went back to her room where her "friends" had long forgotten her. I guess they didn't get the message..or they just didn't care where she was. I lean towards the latter of the two.

I called to check on her before checking out of the hotel. According to the girl that answered, she was asleep. I worried about her for a long time after we left. In hindsight, I realize I should have asked for her contact information so i could have keep in touch with her; make sure she's okay. But, I hadn't thought of that at the time.

When we returned home and back to our regular lives,  I shared the details of my Vegas get-away with some of my friends. At first, this was one of those stories that make your co-workers raise an eyebrow when you tell them that your trip to sin-city ended up with a drunken co-ed in your room. You want to go for the shock factor, right? But when the shock wears off as you tell the story, you get a little laugh out of the initial details, but then everyone let's out a sigh of relief that all ended well; not only for the girl, but for us.

After sharing the story for the umpteenth time, one coworker was quick to let me know that my actions meant a lot to that girl's mother; whether that mother realized it or not.  I really had to think about that one.  "I suppose so", I said, shrugging my shoulders. But after giving it some thought, I really sobered up to the fact that this was not a story that deserved to have a comedic spin placed on it like so many of my stories often do.

Missing - May 30, 2005
"Imagine", she said, "if someone would have done that for Natalee Holloway."

"Imagine how grateful her mother would have been if someone would have intervened the way you did.  Imagine how differently that story would have ended".

Wow. Talk about putting things into perspective.

Imagine if we all stepped out of our comfort zone, just once, to offer help to someone in need, someone crying silently for help, someone unable to ask for help, someone who needs a shoulder, or protection, or a simple intervention.


If you've read this, I hope you take the time to recognize when you can make a difference... and I hope you act on it. You can make a difference.....

RIP Natalee. I wish someone had been there for you.

*** Post Script: After much thought, I realized that the better thing to do that night would have been to call the police to assist this young girl. They would have been able to care for her; providing her medical attention, if needed, and a place to "sleep it off." If she had been a victim of a sexual crime, they would have been able to conduct an investigation. Often times, people such as myself, place themselves in danger when attempting to help another. My husband and I could have been accused of wrong-doing, or we could have been robbed or murdered. It happens in Vegas, as well as other large cities crawling with tourists. If I ever find myself in this situation again, I will do things differently. However, I do not regret assisting this girl. I just realize there are other ways to assist one in need.I just have to learn to use my brain as much as I use my heart.***


  1. That was a very nice thing you did for that girl. I hope if I'm in that position I won't hesitate to extend the hand of hospitality either.

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