Eleven agonizing days for Jessica Elizabeth Lloyd's mother. 11 long, anxiety-ridden nights for her only sibling, Andy. 11 days that have simultaneously paralyzed and mobilized this city, far east of the places where bad stuff is supposed to happen. Just south of the place where Jessica died and of the home of her accused murderer.
Today - 11 days too late - the waiting is over and Jessica is gone. A beautiful light, snuffed out.
When L. rang first thing this morning - before I'd managed to even slurp through a single cup of coffee, before I'd logged onto the internet hoping for good news about Jessica, before I'd even turned off the porch light which has burned every night, all night since Jessica disappeared - I knew the news wasn't good.
Sure enough, L. glumly informed me that Jessica's body had been found in Tweed - a hop, skip and one long jump from her home north of Belleville. An arrest had been made and no, it wasn't the mechanic from Kingston whose name has been hastily scratched off the thousands of "Missing" posters that paper this city and beyond.
We both expressed our sadness and our guilt-inducing lack of surprise. It has been, after all, eleven days.
An hour passed before L. rang again, her voice low and serious as she relayed that the man charged with Jessica's murder is called Russell Williams. A few rapid keystrokes and a Google later I gasped as I saw who he is: Russell Williams is the newly-appointed Commander of CFB Trenton. In effect, THE man in charge of the largest Airbase in Canada and as imposing a man on paper as he appears to be in person.
He is very tall. And very fit. Handsome. Colonel Williams looks honest, competent and good. He has an intelligent, reassuring, typically-military bearing - one that automatically elicits respect. Obedience. Trust. He is also the kind of man who looks very familiar - partly that's genetics but also it's because he IS familiar to many of us. Because he has been here the whole time.
"Poor girl never stood a chance," I mused - angry, shocked and feeling suddenly afraid. "If a man in uniform, certainly one as "capable-and-good-seeming" as Colonel Williams appeared at my door, no matter the hour, my instinct would be to fling open the door and let him in."
"As it would be for most of us, " L. agreed quietly. We conversed in horrified whispers - trying not to scare and worry the children, hovering nearby. Trying not to scare and worry each other and ourselves.
We spoke of our shattered sense of peace, our own vulnerabilities as both mothers and daughters. Mostly we expressed absolute shock that a trusted, indeed a larger-than-life universal symbol of goodness - A Canadian Soldier - has committed such heinous crimes. Worse, he did so in our happy, safe haven from a world gone mad.
Belleville has been dubbed "The Friendly City" and having now called it home for an entire year, I'd have to say that it's aptly named. The Lloyd family have been here for years and years - generations, in fact. I don't know them, but almost everyone else I know, does. It is simply that kind of place - a small town, wrapped in "City" paper. People ARE friendly and open - with doors, smiles, their homes, their hearts.
Horrific crimes such as the ones Williams is charged with committing - the murders of two local women in less than six months plus two vicious home invasions in which two other women were brutally sexually assaulted - are not supposed to happen here. We're the "Friendly City".
Apparently we were also the perfect place for a chisel-faced psychopath to find both esteemed work AND trusting victims. A tragic meeting place for light and dark, good and evil.
Given that, I think I'll leave the porch light burning for a few more nights - perhaps longer.
I leave the porch light burning to cast away dark shadows that appear, suddenly, to loom. To bring warmth to a city frozen in shock and grief for its lost daughter.
As a symbol of love and warmth for Jessica's family, who must now try to live with this awful black truth - and forevermore, without her.
To honor and embrace our shattered community and to remind myself that while bad things do happen this is still a good place.
And finally, in memory of a woman beloved: Jessica Elizabeth Lloyd. May her peace be deep.