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Thursday, March 13, 2003

Reid Collins on Elizabeth Smart and the passing of "Town America."

Thanks be to God for a happy ending. But Collins, the former CNN correspondent, poignantly observes that this couldn't have happened a few decades ago:

That a beautiful teenage girl could be kidnapped from her comfortable home in an outrage that generated hour after hour of television coverage and galleys of newsprint and yet be spirited around the nation for nine months without being noticed is a measure of the great disconnect that is now the community of America.

Within the lifetimes of a lot of living citizens this could not have happened. I refer to the Town America which has now passed, a town in which everybody knew everybody else, or at least knew somebody who did, knew more perhaps than was comfortable for some, but in that skein of knowledge produced something that went with the town, security.

No widow then could lie dead for weeks in an apartment, unnoticed. No child, veiled or not, could be escorted through the city unremarked. The idea that humanity was nobody's business was an alien thought, only naturalized over recent years. In hard times, work-seeking men would gather in hotel lobbies looking for rides from travelers in the hope of finding "something" in the next town. They would get rides, too, aided by hotel clerks who would button-hole salesmen checking out for the road.

* * *

Over time we shall hear all of it, or some of it. The best information is that the abductor took Elizabeth that night up into the hills above the Smarts' home. Whether Mitchell's alleged woman companion, Wanda, was with them then is not known. There were other reported travels, to San Diego, California, perhaps to the East Coast. And there are photos of the trio taken at functions in Salt Lake City over recent months. But, nobody called.

Nobody, that is, until the nosy couple on State Street, who stopped the car, got out and looked, defying all the modern tenets of isolate living: judge not, know not, look not. It was bad luck that Elizabeth Smart was gone so long. She had faded from the screen.

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