“What does ‘abduct’ mean?” my 7-year-old daughter asked me the other day. We had just walked into the Homer Public Library, and she’d seen the poster about Duffy Murnane on the front door. I felt tongue-tied. I wanted to answer her truthfully, but I didn’t want her to be scared. And I didn’t want to betray my own fear.
As everyone in Homer already knows, three months ago, 38-year-old Duffy Murnane went missing on or near Pioneer Avenue while walking from her apartment on Main Street to a doctor’s appointment at the SVT Clinic. I don’t know her personally, but from what I gather, she is a gentle soul. She doesn’t have a boyfriend. She’s more of a homebody than a thrill-seeker. She had been a preschool teacher, and had volunteered in at least one local school. Her mother and stepfather — Sara and Ed Berg — live in Homer.
When my daughter asked me about the word “abduct,” I wasn’t sure what to say. I have been thinking constantly about Duffy since she went missing. I think about her every afternoon when I’m waiting for my daughter to clonk up the front steps after the walk home from school. I think about her every time I walk my dog after dark. I think about her every time I drive that stretch of Pioneer where the search dogs lost her scent.
I know I’m not the only person in this town who has dreamt about Duffy — even without knowing her. And I know I’m not the only parent in this town who is afraid. We are afraid to be so close to such profound parental grief, which must be like an iceberg, revealing only a tiny fraction of itself. We are afraid because it is hard to be a parent when you feel there is an imminent threat in your community. We are afraid because Duffy’s disappearance calls into question what we thought we knew about Homer, this place where we’re trying hard to raise our kids to be kind.
And yet, Duffy’s disappearance has brought out the best in our community. Scores of people have gone door-to-door in downtown Homer, out East End Road, and as far away as Nikiski spreading the word, looking for leads, and handing out flyers. Friends and strangers have pitched in almost $10,000 through a Go Fund Me campaign, dropped casseroles off at the Bergs’ doorstep, loaned a car and donated business services such as printing of flyers.
In addition, the Homer Police Department has rallied to the cause. The HPD has put a massive amount of time into this case. And judging from what I read in the newspaper, our local police force already had its work cut out before Duffy went missing.
But as a parent in this community, I want to know whether everything possible is being done to find Duffy and to keep our community safe. Are upper level agencies — namely the State Troopers and the FBI — substantively involved? Is the HPD moving quickly on every promising lead? Are there other talents that could be harnessed?
Judging from the facts of the case, there could be a murderer or abductor loose in our community. The search dog evidence indicates that Duffy got into a car along Pioneer Avenue. Duffy’s parents know that she wouldn’t have gotten into someone’s car unless she knew them — and as far as investigations reveal, no one in Duffy’s rather narrow orbit has left town since she disappeared. This means that the person responsible could still be in our midst. This thought chills me as I move about my day with my children in tow.
Duffy’s disappearance has brought fear into our community. We need to know whether all available resources are being leveraged to find Duffy and to protect our children. We need answers.
“Abduct means to be taken,” I told my daughter and I held her hand tighter.
Miranda Weiss is a writer and the author of “Tide, Feather, Snow: A Life in Alaska.”