Erin Moore

Two girls, two destinies

On Christmas day she opened her eyes for the first time since she had been beaten senseless and left naked in the snow on a First Nations reserve in northern Alberta five days before. Her alleged attacker, as the newscasters say, was arrested quickly, having been turned in by community members who knew him and perhaps his evil ways, too. But what he did has been done, and now that she is coming to consciousness, will she remember? How can her parents possibly explain? The police provide regular updates and report that the parents are doing the best they can, but that emotions are high because," don't really expect this to happen. She's only six. She's never had any harm."
     A little further west, on the coast of British Columbia, another community is grieving another little girl, seven, who was buried by boulders that slid her off the trail where she was hiking with her mother and a group of adults and children who regularly hiked together. Gone, just like that, in virtual minutes, Erin Moore, whose pictures show a smiling, rosy-cheeked sprite who liked wearing dangly earrings, who sported a tutu and running shoes for bike rides around her small town. A freak, inexplicable accident.
     Both these tragedies occurred in the week before Christmas. School was out so Erin could join the Monday hiking group. There'd been snow so the unnamed six-year old had been tobagganing with other kids before she ran home to change out of her wet clothes.
     The juxtaposition of the two events has simmered in my mind all week. In 1920, the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung introduced the theory of synchronicity, the idea that apparently coincidental events may not be causally related but related by meaning. Coincidences become meaningful by twigging something in the observer.
     The obvious meaning seems to be that tragedy doesn't play favourites, anyone can be struck anywhere, anytime. Family photos of the Moore's show a smiling, athletic, picture-book perfect foursome, the parents said to be an academic couple. To protect the other child's name, her family has not been introduced. Should she recover fully, as we all hope, she will want to escape the identity she is known by now, ie, the six-year old victim of violent sexual abuse. But if conditions on the Paul reserve are like conditions on First Nations reserves elsewhere in the north, housing is minimal, substance abuse problems rampant. What else could begin to explain the behaviour of her alleged attacker except the kind of madness brought on by drugs and alcohol?
     That tragedy can happen to anyone is a true-ism. Nor does the juxtaposition of the two sad events have much meaning as a warning to parents to keep their kids safe. Hiking, tobagganing? These are the sort of things parents should encourage not discourage.
     As a writer of stories, I often lean on technique to find my way to understanding. What point of view will best reveal the truths that must lie beneath? Which character will provide the best guide? Where to start, in the future and look back, having let time work to make everything clearer? Or begin in the past and lead up to the two separate days when the lives of two separate families changed forever?
     Both communities held candlelight vigils, one in memory; one for healing. But it's the explanation that eludes everyone, and in both cases, it would be just too hard to accept that fates like these are God's will. What kind of God would will such cruel fates? Karma? The result of a badly ruptured society?  Of an especially rainy fall, one consequence having been the minute movement of earth beneath a boulder that may have budged for the first time since the retreat of the glaciers when Erin Moore stepped on it?
     No answers, but respectful cheers to these two spunky spirits, remembering one; hoping for the other.