Imagine driving past middle and high schools and they start to disappear. Taking every student inside with them. Young friends and family members just gone with no explanation, no trace of existence. The common thread is not race, religion, or gender, but rather it is their age. The average American middle school has 600 students, ages 10-13. The average American high school has 700 students, ages 14-18. Together they make up 40% of the United States student population and many are susceptible to being trafficked.
I was eight. I pulled the heavy sliding van door open and sat inside. I buckled the faded seat belt across my lap. The navy-blue minivan, with scratchy upholstery, was thick with summer heat. It was early morning and I could already feel the sweat, sticky behind my knees as I waited for my family to come out of my great aunt’s trailer.
Yesterday, Ryder and I went on a walk to get out of the house. Our local news was forecasting a strong chance of cabin fever for all citizens while a hurricane blew through. Despite being designated a “flood zone”, our sea level neighborhood, surrounded by creeks and marshes, didn’t experience any flooding, although our neighbors weren’t as lucky. We took advantage of the unexpected dryness to take in some windy and shockingly cold air, thankfully sans kayaks.
As we walked through the neighborhood, park Ryder noticed mushrooms. He spotted many different kinds – warm sugary browns, soft yellows, and bright whites. Ryder thought it was amazing that even though tree limbs, trash cans, parts of houses, furniture, and other debris along our path to the park were in disarray, these tiny, soft, white mushrooms stood strong. They weren’t the ones clustered together, tucked tight between strong tree roots, and lying close to the ground; they were out in the open, gently wobbling as forceful gusts blew through the field in the park.