October and Sally Memories....
October’s crisp air always reminds me of the trip my family and I took to New York City in 2000 to be on the Sally Jesse Raphael Show. We were desperate to get Molly’s story out, we were desperate to find her.
That day was also crisp and sunny, and it felt like torture to get into a limousine to travel 5 hours to New York City. It felt like we were in a dream, an alternate life that we could snap out of somehow, but instead we were cruising to New York, my mom, dad, John, and my husband Ron, Mikaela and I.
Since June, John and I have fallen into the role of the invisible siblings, next to our parents, seen but not fully understood. Suddenly our identities were attached to a missing child, we were not our own selves anymore. We became Molly’s brother, Molly’s sister. Our needs, our feelings evaporated, and we existed but didn’t know who or what we were doing anymore or what we were supposed to do.
We were making the best of our long drive, drinking sparkling water and pretending we were fancy! I listened to my parents discussing what important points they wanted to address during the interview. They wanted to be sure to stress that law enforcement should “overreact” to a missing child case, unlike what happened with Molly. They assumed she “took off with her friends”, without our input or thoughts on that assumption. Quickly after Molly disappeared, we learned that a standard head and shoulders shot had a one in six recovery of a missing child. That fact inspired my parents to start the Molly Bish Foundation. It was born on a kitchen table, with the support of the people who most loved Molly and my family.
I didn’t know then that I would repeat these facts for 22+ years.
When we arrived in the studio we were ushered to the “Green Room”. We had never seen a “Green Room” before and took pictures and drew surprise at its ordinary appearance. The producers decided John and I should join our parents on stage with Sally Jesse, and we were brushed with make up and our hair was slicked down to our scalps. We laughed at the incredulousness of it all. What were we doing here? Who were we?
Sally Jesse came into the “Green Room” to meet us. She had on a low-cut shirt and she was all business. She asked rather frank questions; it was hard to distinguish if she believed us or thought we were guilty or some kind of Jerry Springer family. I felt uncomfortable and even more nervous. Mikaela’s dad, Ron and my sweet little one year old waited for us in the “Green Room” with the snacks and drinks and baby toys. Before John and I entered the stage, my stomach in knots, I tried to remember to breathe. Then I looked at my brother, he was white as a ghost, and suddenly, my nerves turned to protection and sheer determination to not let another person or event hurt my family. My little brother wasn’t so little anymore, but he looked like the scared toddler who didn’t want to go to preschool. My heart ached, the anger that had become a common comfort and source of strength rejuvenated my presence, and I squeezed his hand, and told him, “Whatever you do, don’t look down Sally Jesse Raphael’s blouse on national television you little perv”, caught by my surprise sisterly advice, the color returned to his face, and he looked at me unsure if he should laugh or cry.
And we went on stage that way.
After the show we walked around Central Park unsure of what to do with our time in the city. We came upon a three-piece band playing, and my mother always being a music fan and looking for fun stopped and complimented the musicians. She noticed then that the band’s name was Flogging Molly and asked them how they came upon that name. They told us a story that a long time ago people who committed crimes in Europe were sent to Australia, particularly women. They told us of a women named Molly, a mother, who had lost her husband and stole goods to provide for her children. When caught she was sent to Australia, and they celebrated her by using her name in their band and sharing her story.
In that moment we realized the power of our own Molly’s story and that her legacy would be to keep children safe, as she did as a lifeguard. It would continue to live on in the Molly Bish Foundation created by my parents, the Molly Bish Center at Anna Maria College, The Molly Bish Institute at Mount Wachusett Community College, and of course, in every person that loves her. They carry their own stories with Molly each of us looking for meaning in the tragedy that broke our hearts.