All for a Stranger


Recently, I witnessed some online acquaintances’ amazing compassion for a complete stranger.  But, more on that in a bit.  First, the back-story.  I am going to be vague about the specifics because, well, you’ll see why.

I’ve been following a blogger for about two years.  I began following her because she wrote about a particular sport in which I was interested.  She posted a few times a month about the sport, her experiences doing it in Chicago and links to news articles about the sport.  About five months ago, her life began to take a downward turn in almost every way possible.  Her employment contract ended and she was forced to take a much less desirable position.  She then had to downsize her living arrangements which caused her to move farther away from her support network.  Next, she was hit by a car and the injuries made it very difficult and painful to do her sport.  While being treated for her injuries, her boyfriend decided to breakup with her for another woman.  Her injuries made it difficult, if not impossible, for her to workout, so she started to gain weight.  Do you see what I’m telling you?  Her life took a very severe twist in a relatively short amount of time.

I do not know this woman.  The above was learned through her blogging.  For the past couple of months, her blogging changed.  She began describing herself as a loser.  She repeated wrote about her ex and asked for clarification as to why it happened.  She stating she wished the car had finished it’s job.  That last one had me concerned.  I felt I should do something.  I had every intention of writing her a compassionate note.  Her email was not listed so a comment would have to suffice.  I never got around to commenting and her next post was somewhat back to normal.  I continued to read her angst which was peppered among news of the sport.  I repeatedly wished for her to find peace in her situation.

Then, a week ago things took a turn for the worse.  When I logged onto Reader, I noted a new post from this woman entitled “Goodbye . . .”  I clicked on the link and read her two sentence post.  She stated she was going to finish the job the driver started in February and that she was tired of being alive.  Okay.  Now this was serious.  I checked and saw that the post was written the previous evening.  I, again, looked to see if I could locate an email or some other way to contact the woman.  There was nothing.  I wondered, “Should I call the police?”  I didn’t t know her last name or address so I doubted the Chicago Police would do anything.  I didn’t even know if anything she had written was true.  But, I was torn; I needed to do something!

So, I did what every normal person does and I raised the question on an artists forum that I belong to.  Okay, probably very few people would do that .  But, I knew of at least one person on the forum who was connected to a police department.  Perhaps they would be able to tell me if the police can help with so little information.

Almost immediately, I started receiving responses that I needed to call the police.  Please remember that this woman had recently moved from her downtown apartment.   I had no idea where she moved and if she was still in Chicago or a suburb.  Therefore, I called my local (non-Chicago) police department to see about the protocol of such a report.  I was informed that I should call Chicago.  I did call Chicago but they told me they could do nothing without more information.  They suggested I contact the blog’s publishing provider. The provider is Google.  You can’t just call Google.  There is no phone number, anywhere.  So, I went to a Google support forum and posted the question there.  Eventually, my question and the blog information was forwarded to “the appropriate department.”   I have yet to hear back from them.

In the meantime, my artist forum friends were busy at work.  They looked through her flickr account and discovered her name printed on a name tag she was wearing in one photo.  She has a very common name.  They then discovered the exact address of her work location (a university) based on another photo.  So, I had a name and a work location.  I called the Chicago Police again.  I was on hold for 20 minutes.  In those 20 minutes, an out-of-state artist who used to live near the university called the university police.  They said they would do a wellness check on her at her job. We never heard back from the police.

Another artist continued to view the (3000 photo) flickr account for more information.  She found an email of someone who appeared to be the woman’s friend.  The artist emailed the friend and the friend said he would contact the woman’s attorney.

We haven’t heard anything from anyone about the status of this woman.  Not that we really expected to, but we were hoping.  It has been a week and the woman has not blogged again.

I do not know if the information we had was current.  I do not know if the threat was real.  I do know that a group of women banned together and spent hours trying to locate a perfect stranger.  To help her.  To save her.   I can only hope we weren’t too late.