Christmas, I’m told, is a very difficult time for the families of missing people. I can sort of relate. One of my brothers was killed in a car accident twenty years ago and I’m sure he’s on my parents’ minds every Christmastime. But at least they know where my brother is, at least they can visit his grave. I can’t imagine how terrible it would be to try to celebrate Christmas while wondering if your child/spouse/sibling/friend is alive or dead or hurt or scared or can’t remember who they are.
Today I thought I’d spotlight the disappearance of Deniese Hiraman, who disappeared from New York City nearly a decade ago. I’ve always had a special interest in her case, probably because she’s exactly one day younger than me. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children had her listed as a runaway for years, but they’ve since changed the classification to endangered missing. Endangered missing is a catchall term and I’m not sure the changed classification actually means anything in Deniese’s case — the NCMEC appears to change most runaways to endangered missing once they reach a certain age.
At any rate, Deniese was only thirteen years old when she left to go to school and never arrived. Though I don’t have a lot of info on her disappearance, there are indications that her life was troubled. She reportedly was involved in a gang, and she had a fake ID giving her age as 18. She may be very far from home; there have been reported sightings of her in Minnesota, Canada and Trinidad. My intuition is that she’s alive and may not even know she’s listed as missing. I’m reminded of another runaway case, a young woman named Michelle Branch who disappeared in I think 1997. If I’m remembering the story right, about ten years later she called home after she got her own missing persons notice in the mail on an ADVO card. She said she’d been a “wild kid” and hadn’t realized people were looking for her.
But even if Deniese is alive, that doesn’t mean she’s well or in a good situation. Young, pretty girls like her, who think they know more about the world than they do — and I sure thought I knew everything when I was thirteen — are vulnerable for all kinds of predators. I only hope she’s safe and perhaps, this coming year, she’ll decide to call home and her family won’t have to spend another Christmas without her.