For many of us, the loss of a loved one, especially a child can be painful and traumatizing. Not knowing where your child is or how he or she is being treated is one of the hardest things some will have to face. One minute, you will feel a surge of hope; the next, a depth of despair that will threaten your very sanity. Life becomes an emotional roller coaster that won’t really stop until you can hold your child in your arms again.
Such emotional and mental effects can be exhausting for family members and loved ones of a missing person. They need all the support that their community can provide them.
This is why I have been touched by the tragedy of missing University of Florida freshman, Christian Aguilar, which grips the nation and the South Florida community.
Christian Aguilar, 18, was last seen Sept. 20 with Pedro Bravo, a close friend and former Doral Academy Preparatory School classmate who attends nearby Sante Fe College. Bravo was arrested Sept. 24, and charged with depriving a crime victim of medical treatment and attempted murder. He told police that he and Aguilar had fought and he left Aguilar bloody and barely breathing.
Aguilar was reported missing by friends on Sept. 21. Since then, an outpouring of good will and compassion has engulfed the Aguilar family and the UF community.
In the past two weeks, a diverse stream of volunteers have made their way to Gainesville. Parents and grandparents, a solider, a truck driver, a former civil rights activist, students and many more have traveled from as far as Pensacola, St. Augustine and Miami to help a father search for his son.
During this time of turbulence and sorrow, Christian’s father, Carlos Aguilar, has been a rock of stability for his family.
Carlos has become the head of a volunteer effort to find Christian. He and his large, close-knit family have spent the days almost 350 miles from home, held captive by the uncertainty of Christian’s fate.
In the chaos of the moment, Carlos still holds faith that his son will be found.
Such an event, like the one playing out in Gainesville, occurred at NSU a few years ago. Che Beckford, a student at the time, disappeared in Dec. 2010. This caused an outpouring of support and compassion for his family. Students and faculty at NSU came together as one and lifted up the family, and thankfully, Beckford was found unharmed in Georgia.
Just like the community came together for Beckford, they have come together for Christian Aguilar.
Students wear “help find Christian” t-shirts on the beach. This same message has been blasted in flyers, passed out at football games, and echoed on dozens of Internet sites all across the state.
Volunteers, equipment and government agencies searching for Christian multiple every day.
It is in times like these, horrible they may be, that South Floridians come together, giving so much of themselves to engage in a cause.
Friends and strangers are bonded by the horrible thought that Christian could’ve been our kid, our sibling or our loved one, and that Aguilars could be anyone of us. That bond is a light on this fragile family’s path.
My heart goes out to them, and I hope and pray that Christian Aguliar returns to the waiting arms of his loving parents and family members.