Where Is Shane Montgomery?

The missing college student shows the scary side of home for the holidays.

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I can’t imagine what the parents of missing West Chester University student Shane Montgomery went through this past weekend as the search for their son spread throughout Manayunk — and thank God for that. It’s any parent’s worst nightmare: a child vanished into thin air. And while we may tell ourselves it hardly ever happens, the truth is, it does, more often than we’re willing to let ourselves admit.

Montgomery had been at Kildare’s pub celebrating “Thanksgiving Eve,” the unofficial (but popular) holiday before the holiday, when college kids return to their hometowns and go out drinking with their old friends. My colleague Monica Weymouth recently wrote a lovely, poignant and funny ode to the occasion as observed in the Great Northeast. We used to observe Thanksgiving Eve where I grew up, in Doylestown; my kids do it now, in the far western suburb where we live.

And I hold my breath.

“Who’s the designated driver?” I ask. They wave me off impatiently; they’ve got it covered. Someone will take care of that. “Where are you going?” That, too, is negotiable; cell phones enable them to pivot on a dime, change plans and let their friends know in an instant. It’s nothing like the elaborate politicking we used to go through in the old days to make sure everyone was in synch.

I should be more relaxed about this ritual by now. They’ll be with friends they’ve known all their lives. You can walk from one end of our town to the other in half an hour. There are only three bars they’ll deign to visit. How much trouble can they possibly get in?

Ten years ago, a 20-year-old in our town met some friends at the bowling alley, reportedly got drunk, and started to drive home. He was missing for more than a month before his overturned car was spotted in dense undergrowth along a main thoroughfare, with his body inside.

Surveillance video hasn’t proven helpful in Shane’s disappearance, the way it did when Hannah Graham vanished after a night of drinking at the University of Virginia. As of last night, hundreds of searchers hadn’t turned up any clues. The FBI combed through the murky waters of the nearby canal without finding Shane. It seems unbearably sad that instead of coming together to celebrate their family, the Montgomerys spent Thanksgiving weekend trying to cope with uncertainty and the possibility of loss.

As I write this on Sunday night, my kids are gone; the house is quiet. I love having them here. I love it when they’re back where they belong, where I don’t sit up worrying until, loud and laughing and full of fun, they come back through the door. If they’re anything like I was at their age, they do much more dangerous things when they’re away than have a few drinks at the local bar. That’s okay, so long as I don’t know about it — and so long as I don’t ever have to experience what Karen Montgomery is enduring as she wonders whether her son will ever walk through the door again.

If you have information about Shane Montgomery, contact Karen or Kevin Montgomery at 215-920-5269 or Kevin Verbrugghe at 267-304-0864. More information and photos at the Help Find Shane Montgomery Facebook page.

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