Over a year ago the citizens of Springfield began to hear about the abduction of Hailey Owens. As the Amber Alert was issued, Christians began to pray for her safety. Many of the teachers and staff from Westport and Bowerman Elementary Schools were spreading the word about her.
The announcement of the discovery of her body shook many in the Ozarks. Even those that did not know her or the family personally grieved. The fact that she was found raped and murdered in a home prompted many to express their dismay that such a thing could happen here. The recent rash of murders in this area seems to add fuel to the fire that the third largest city in Missouri is no longer a small town.
As the story of what happened was revealed, another surprise came. The man who had grabbed Hailey was employed at a Springfield school. His family was respected in the community. Much of the speculation for the last year will not be confirmed or denied until after the trial, if then. Our community like many others around the world has had to deal with the fact that not everyone we know is the type of person we think they are.
Hopefully it will be a long time before the Queen City of the Ozarks has to experience this type of tragedy again. The shootings and stabbings that have taken place in the last year have increased our consternation about the changes in our once small community. Springfield continues to grow and it is up to each of us to be ever vigilant of those around us.
Southwest Missouri will probably never be the small, quiet community it once was. We must continue to strive for that no matter what the future holds for us. Each citizen must watch for the signs of violence, abuse and potential tragedy. Just as the neighbors who saw Hailey abducted gave chase and reported what they saw, we must never be those who say, “That doesn’t concern me. I won’t get involved.” To regain our status of a fine place to live, there is only one person that we are responsible for personally. That is ourselves.