Without question, some will see as heartless the decision to take down about 20 large billboard-style signs with information about missing Indiana University student Lauren Spierer on them. Her unexplained disappearance and likely death is a nightmare event in Bloomington, and community members’ feelings and actions toward her grieving parents are compassionate, heartfelt and understandable.
But it was time to take down the signs.
Mayor Mark Kruzan issued a statement noting “no disrespect is intended nor does it reflect any loss of interest in the case. The community has been very engaged in the case and will remain so.” He should be taken at his word.
Spierer was last seen about 4:30 a.m. June 3, 2011. For the past 28 months, Bloomington police have followed up thousands of leads in an effort to learn what happened to the 20-year-old student. Her parents have appealed to the Bloomington and IU communities for help and received it. They have had harsh words for several male IU students who were with their daughter the night and early morning she was last seen, and have gotten nowhere with them.
Robert and Charlene Spierer have every reason to want to keep their daughter’s face and name in front of the public, and they can continue to do so, with legal signs on private property. But it is reasonable for the city to take the billboard’s off of public property and rights-of-way. It’s unfair to characterize the action as callous; rather, it’s a recognition that the billboards have not led to finding Lauren and it’s time to move beyond that city-supported strategy.
It’s also acknowledgement — without saying the words — that some city residents believe attention paid to Lauren’s disappearance has been out of balance with concerns about other people who have gone missing over the years in Bloomington, and that devoting public property and rights-of-way to this one case is a reminder and example of that.
Lauren’s parents took the high road about the removal. “We have been shown a tremendous amount of kindness and support by the residents of Bloomington and for that we are eternally grateful. We apologize to those who have found Lauren’s missing posters offensive,” Charlene Spierer stated in an email Monday evening. That was a gracious response.
The Lauren Spierer case is tragic, horrific, heartbreaking — many modifiers are accurate. Removing the signs won’t change that, but letting them stand wouldn’t have either.
Still, there’s no danger she will be forgotten. She and Bloomington have been forever linked, and the search for her, as well as the support for her family, will go on.
— The Herald-Times, Bloomington