Editor’s note: This article, by Fran Lynggaard Hansen, was first published in The Commons.
BRATTLEBORO — “Base operations,” answers Trish Kittredge, as she participates in her fifth telephone conversation in less than 14 minutes.
Kittredge is organizing the search for her missing nephew, 17-year-old Marble Arvidson, a senior at Brattleboro Union High School.
Marble was last seen as he left his home in West Brattleboro on Aug. 27, the day before Tropical Storm Irene rocked the area with heavy rains and flash flooding.
In charge, yet calm, Kittredge, a command sergeant major for the Army National Guard in Massachusetts, had been called into active duty because of Hurricane Irene.
When her nephew went missing, she was given leave to organize his search.
Marble Arvidson is 165 pounds and 6 ft. 2 in. tall. He has blond, shoulder-length hair, blue eyes and a fair complexion. If you have heard or seen anything that could help identify the unknown individual Marble was seen with, or any other information at all, please do not hesitate to contact the family’s Operation Find Marble number, (802) 490-2003, or the Brattleboro Police, at 802-257-7946. Even the tiniest piece of information is important, police say. Anonymous tips are welcomed.
The table under the information tent, set up in the parking lot of the Chelsea Royal Diner, is organized and ready for anything.
A pile of orange vests sits in a big box on the ground. A banquet-sized table holds maps full of grids, yellow sticky notes marking areas that have been searched.
A volunteer sign-up sheet is ready on a clipboard. Kittredge’s open Volvo station wagon is loaded with missing-person posters. People wander over to the desk, ask questions, take posters, dispense hugs, offer somber well-wishes, some request and are assigned tasks.
A great kid
“Marble is very dear to us,” say his aunts, Jane Arvidson and Joanne McGowan, finishing each others’ sentences as they describe the youth.
“None of us believe he is a runaway. Anyone who knows him would know that,” McGowan says.
“There is no way that he would not have made contact with someone close to him,” Arvidson says, “as he has a large family, supportive adults in his life and lots of friends. ”
Checking in, his aunts say, was always a part of his behavior.
“The challenge is that there is no intelligent information about where he would be,” says Kittredge, as she looks down at her maps. “We’re doing cursory searches, so we are looking at the path of least resistance. We don’t have any information about where he likely walked off to, so we are checking roads and logging trails alongside the river.”
The first couple of days, Marble’s family and friends focused on getting the word out that he’d gone missing.
As they printed flyers, launched a website and created a special Facebook profile, Marble’s family hoped that someone would come forward with an idea about where he might be.
“As that didn’t happen,” Kittredge says, “we couldn’t just sit here and do nothing, so we started searching, looking along trails he might have walked along.”
The day Marble went missing
All they know for certain is that Marble Arvidson was at his home on the afternoon of Aug. 27.
One of the four members of the household saw Marble in the afternoon. Another heard someone knock at the door and Marble conversing with a man whose voice was not recognized.
Marble left a note saying he was going out and would be back in about 20 minutes. He marked it with the time — 2:17 p.m.
He never returned.
“We don’t know if he left in a car, went walking — nobody knows but the person who knocked on the door, and we haven’t been able to identify who that person is,” Kittredge said.
The big push is to find out who came to the house and was the last person who saw Marble.”
– Trish Kittridge
“Unless they come forward, we have no other information. The big push is to find out who came to the house. They were the last person who saw Marble,” she said.
Marble’s family believes he left dressed in black and a favorite black bowler hat. They assume he left wearing boots.
His grandfather, Larry Beaudoin of Greenfield, Mass., said that Marble had a date with his girlfriend at 4 p.m. on the very day he went missing. “What young man who is looking forward to a date with his girlfriend on a Saturday afternoon doesn’t come back to see her?” he asks.
“All I can think about is the last time I hugged him,” Beaudoin said.
Through it all, Kittredge continues to staff the information booth and her telephone. During the evening, her other sisters take over phone duties.
What keeps Kittredge going?
“My sister’s son is missing,” she says sadly. “This is what needs to be done.”
Many note the unfortunate timing of Tropical Storm Irene in Vermont, whose wreckage has dominated headlines, at the expense, they say, of coverage of the youth’s disappearance.
“Human life is worth more than mud, and I’ve got kids,” Tina Fisher, a mother from Halifax, says, noting the number of volunteers cleaning up around town after the storm. “If one of mine went missing, I’d want someone out there looking for them.”
She grabs more posters.
A truck with all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) pulls into the parking lot. Deana Des Reusseau of Greenfield, Mass., and Bruce Williams of Erving, Mass., have been riding up Route 9 for the past couple of hours searching for Marble. They’ve been searching car lots, woods, an old gravel bank.
“These aren’t places that are easy to get to on foot, but we didn’t find anything,” Williams says sadly, shaking his head.
Britne Stark meets Des Reuisseau and Williams for the first time at the information booth and joins them on their ride.
Britne, who knows Marble and is in his class at Brattleboro Union High, describes Marble as someone who “knows a lot of people, but he’s only friends with just a few.”
But, she says: “He would do just about anything for anybody. He always gives up his seat on the bus if someone doesn’t have one.”
She starts to tear up and brushes aside the drops on her face.
“If he could, he’d have called somebody by now,” Britne says.
On day nine of the search, about 12 to 15 people have come out to look for Marble. No new leads have come in.
In the middle of the afternoon, Sigrid Arvidson, Marble’s mother, comes to the information booth after looking for her son all morning in other parts of town.
Arvidson wants to thank everyone for their prayers and their help in finding her son.
“We want him back,” she says, tears pouring down both cheeks.
“Marble, if you see this, we remember you, we know you want to be found. We feel your absence every hour,” she says.
“Come home to us.”