innocence lost

An attractive young woman went missing in the early morning hours of October 7th. This is something that happens with unfortunate frequency but because of the location this story caught my attention.

Michelle Gardner-Quinn, 21, of Arlington VA was a student at University of Vermont in Burlington, VT. In the grand scheme of things, if you live near Washington DC and go to school in northern Vermont you'd certainly expect bad things to happen near home in DC, not at school in Vermont. Vermont is a land of dairy farms and quaint bed & breakfast inns. You expect to see cows and Ben & Jerry ice cream not a sex criminal.

I grew up in upstate NY and Burlington was the closest city--if you can call a place with under 40,000 people a city--with an airport and college so there were often reasons to undertake the two hour drive to visit. I would go there to pick up relatives that flew in to visit, I took my GREs at UVM, at one time after school I was hoping to get a job there. It is a very nice town and school so to hear that it was the location of Gardner-Quinn's disappearance was a shock to me.

Less than a week later it was reported that Gardner-Quinn's body had been found in Huntington Gorge, approximately 14 miles east of Burlington, near the small town of Richmond VT. This disturbed me even more because just a week before I'd mentioned Richmond on my blog.

The picture to the left is of Huntington Gorge. I took it in January of 2002. At that time the road in there was unpaved for much of its length and didn't have many houses on it. I doubt much has changed in the past 5 years. It's a quiet area.

It's no stranger to police and rescue units though. There's a plaque up at the head of the gorge for the swimmers that have lost their lives there over the years. But despite both leaving someone dead, murder is a far cry from an accidental drowning .


It's been two weeks now and I still can't reconcile murderous violence with the pastoral backdrop of rural Vermont. It bothers me in a way that murders in Atlanta and NYC--two other places I've lived--don't. You expect life to occasionally be snuffed out early in cities. It's regrettable but expected.

This picture is just past Huntington Gorge looking back up at the road from down on the rocks next to the stream. Less than a half mile downstream the river widens quite a bit and slows down. While it looks quiet in the pictures above, that's because so much water is locked up in the form of snow and ice. In warmer weather this can be a fast and dangerous river but it was never meant as a dumping place. Lost innocence.

Comments

Michelle said…
Absolutely stunning scenery, perhaps the murder was committed elsewhere and her body dumped there?
Uisce said…
I guess you just never know. we live in a small town in another state, not all that far from there. and you think the thing you have to worry about is the coyotes getting the chickens. I guess the paranoia that sometimes affects the way we bring up our kids nowadays isn't all that unfounded.
Nancy said…
I was shocked also. I went to Champlain College. And, before my parents moved us to the Candian Border we lived in Jericho, just outside of Burlington. I still have lots of family in Shelburne. So, yes, this tradgy hits home. Makes you wonder if there are any safe places anymore.

I never jumped from the Gorge, but all my cousins did. It is a very dangerous place.
Horrible horrible story Dave....I agree that this is very very disturbing to think that such violence can happen in such a tranquil place...just like if there can be murder in an Amish community...there can be murder anywhere---I'm sorry to say.
Lovely lovely pictures....
Green Earth said…
Calling over from `The Queer Chef', and I do understand your distress. Violence is always disturbing wherever it occurs, with best wishes, The Artist
Pearl said…
yes, it can be a shocker. This is a trivial example comparatively, but I remember a beaver pond I went to for solitude and prayer and one day by the place I never saw anyone, there were condoms and lube dropped and the potential for the place I perceived the place just spun my head.

unrelatedly,

Did you ever do the novel writing month yourself.
Annabelle said…
Beautiful pictures, but haunting story. Kind of Atget-ish come to think of it.
srp said…
Having a college age daughter, this story really made me shudder; and the parents were there for Family Weekend too. It is such a shame that we have to raise our kids to fear strangers, all the time. Our children can't be innocent and carefree any more.
gem said…
I didn't know about this incident, utenzi, so I am surprised and alarmed to hear about it. My daughter is a freshman in Southern Vermont. Who would ever expect that sort of thing to happen in Vermont? I enjoyed stopping in on your blog.
essay said…
I am the mom of a college senior who knew a close friend of Michelle's and told me about her death. I appreciate that you shared these photos, which were somehow a relief to see, peaceful and draped in white. Michelle loved nature and snowboarding. Perhaps her spirit was comforted that her remains were able to rest here. I hope and pray so anyway, because when I think what she went through and what those who love her must keep on reliving, I grieve all over again for a young woman who could have been my own, and hold them all in my heartfelt prayers.
Carmi said…
I grew up in Montreal, and Vermont was a large part of my life. I've been to the gorge, and spent countless weekends in all parts of the state.

This stuns me. I wrote something about violence coming close to home. I'll post it to my blog, because now's the right time to share it.

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