She was last seen in Lander, the central Wyoming town where she had moved with Steven Bechtel, her husband of 13 months, to join a community of ardent high- country athletes. Wearing black shorts and running shoes, she stopped at an art gallery about 2:30 p.m. to discuss matting one of her photographs.
And then the 24-year-old, petite, blond Olympic marathon hopeful vanished. http://www.charleyproject.org/cases/b/bechtel_amy.htmlNow fast forward to January 7th, 2012:
There is a massive search effort underway in Sidney, Montana for a missing teacher. Over 1,000 people are scouring the town of Sidney, Montana for any signs of a missing teacher, Sherry Arnold. The 43-year-old woman has been missing since 6:30 am Saturday, when she left her house to go for a jog. On Saturday, authorities recovered her shoe in the northeast part of town.
Sidney, Montana is a very rural area in Eastern Montana near the Bakken Oil Field. This kind of thing is unheard of, and the tiny quiet town is in a panic. http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-728093Amy Bechtel has never been found. Her husband was a suspect, but the fact remains that in many places a person can go missing and never be found. If you've spent anytime in the west, you've probably found yourself miles from from anything and anyone at some point. Anyone could snatch you up.
Should this be a cautionary tale? Should women be concerned for their safety to the extent that they never run alone in remote areas again? Are these sorts of things happening with more regularity then they did 20 or 30 years ago? How should we, as runners, respond to such horrendous events?
Shortly following Amy Bechtel's disappearance I found myself just outside of Lander, Wyoming, for a long weekend climbing trip to the sun drench limestone cliffs of Wild Iris. My then boyfriend and I were enjoying the 'undeveloped' camping option that was both extremely remote and incredibly peaceful. I knew about Amy, and I also knew that I wanted to run while I was there. The whole situation did leave me fairly unnerved.
I've run through Harlem, and Queens, and down through Battery Park in the wee hours of a cold, dark morning, with grey clad men huddled over burning trashcans. I've run through cities abroad that I was probably too unfamiliar with. I've run through remote areas of the Utah Hills outside of LasVegas while images of Flannery O'Connon's "Misfit" pranced through my head or the banjo music from "Deliverance" wormed it's way into my brain. Over all my years of running I've found myself in a lot of sketchy situations. But I continue to run - and I try to be smart about it - but the fact remains, that everyday that I venture out on my own I'm putting myself at risk. Is this stupid? Is this foolhardy? Should I be packing heat?
On that trip to Lander I did run, several times, with my then 2 year-old Aussie mix dog. I felt somehow safer with her by my side, but the truth of the matter, which I was all too well aware of, is that she could have done little to help me evade a nefarious character determined to do me harm. Should I have just stayed at camp? If something had happened would I be to blame? Would it be said that I had made a poor decision?
I hear many women express reservations about venturing out alone. Some think I'm foolish and/or stupid. We judge women and men differently on this. Many are quick to jump to the judgement that a woman should know better than to put herself in a vulnerable situation. While we may not 'blame' a woman for being the victim of violence, we do have this idea, at least in the back of our minds, that her choices might have been unwise. When something bad happens to a man, that judgement rarely surfaces.
There are bad, mean, twisted people out there, no doubt about it. But I don't think that it's really any worse than it's ever been (I'll have to do some research on this), but we are certainly more likely to hear about it when it does happen. All that said, I refuse to let those twisted individuals rule my life. Running, and freedom it represent and allows, is too important to me.
We make many choices that put us at risk. Most of us don't freakout about driving a car, though the statistics concerning highway fatalities should be sobering. But we don't say, well highway fatalities are going up, and so it would be foolhardy for me to drive to work. No, we accept those risks - and who would say, after someone gets into a crash - "Well they put themselves in that vulnerable situation. What did they expect?".
I'm not saying that people are making these judgements in either the case of Amy Bechtel or Sherry Arnold, but it does cause women runners to be just a little more afraid to go out on their own. But it's important that we not read too much into these cases. Of course it could happen to me. But do I want to live my entire life with that fear?
I know that I don't. It seems that Amy and Sherry would probably agree.
Now, go to the link below, scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on "This belongs on CNN". http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-728093