Madeleine McCann Sighting Means Hope Hasn't Vanished

Madeleine McCannOh, Kate McCann. From one mom to another, when I heard the reports about the recent possible Madeleine McCann sighting in India, I hoped so much that this was another Jaycee Dugard and Elizabeth Smart story in the making. Those stories prove to us that missing children who are written off by everyone but their parents can and do return home someday.

But all those rumors of DNA testing vanished just as quickly as they appeared around the web. The chief of police in the Indian town of Leh where the girl was supposedly spotted told a newspaper this was the first he was hearing of the whole thing, and there were never any tests.

Then came word from you and your husband, downplaying the sighting. That made us sad, because we wanted to feel as excited and hopeful as you were. But unfortunately you are the experts at disappointment and we follow your gauge. How you ultimately determined that the girl was not Maddie is especially heartbreaking.


You looked at her photograph.

Of course you could tell it wasn't her. DNA tests that take weeks would have been a waste of time. You would know your child no matter how old she was or how much she'd changed. You more than any mom has committed every detail of your daughter's face, every curve of her body, every distinctive mark, the texture of her skin and hair, to photographic memory. Pictures are the only physical thing left of your daughter and I'm sure you examine them, hold them, cry with them daily.

I'm sure you've become pretty used to seeing these pictures of lookalikes, too, especially in those first months after the abduction, when the news was still hot. Your spokesperson tells us that you have both learned to treat all these sightings with skepticism, so as not to get your hopes up.

I find this so sad, but I understand it is also necessary for your survival. If every time you learned about a sighting you got your hopes up only to come crashing back down, you'd be in the psych ward -- or worse -- by now. You'd have to compartmentalize these slim possibilities to be able to carry on. I still do not know how you do carry on. How do you?

Wait -- please don't tell me. I know you reveal that in your book, Madeleine. Please know that I am dying to read it but cannot possibly read it because I'm terrified to hear it in your words -- what you were thinking might be happening to your daughter in the days after the abduction ('she wanted to rip her skin off"), how you get through every minute of every day with all that guilt (she could not do anything pleasurable, even sit down to dinner, without having the purpose of being completely focused on her daughter), and how it affected your marriage (she had no desire to make love to her husband). Horrible, gut-wrenching, mind-numbing confessions that are my living nightmare. And you are living them every second.

I know that you have to downplay these sightings publicly. But I also know that when you got that phone call from your private investigator or whoever notified you of the possible sighting, your heart leaped a little in the hope this could be "the one." And I know you are still hurting this very minute because it was not.

All you can do is get through like you've been doing, however you've been doing it, with the realization that as long as you refuse to give up, we won't either. If you believe Madeleine is alive and well and somewhere out there, we do too. And we will continue to look for her as long as you do.

Were you hoping the girl spotted in India was really Maddie or did you know it was another false alarm?

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