Monday, August 22, 2005

8/22/05 “Oh Ashley, Ashley”

Scarlett O’Hara utters those words in the epic “Gone With the Wind”. She spends most of the movie thinking that she loves Ashley Wilkes, pining away for him, and being separated from him.

I love the character of Scarlett. She is gritty and determined. She goes to the extreme if she has to in order to accomplish a task. I feel I can relate to her, although I certainly don’t intend to do things to the point of scandal, like the Scarlett in the movie.

There is yet another “Scarlett” in this story, and this one is also separated from her Ashley, whom she does love dearly. Our “Scarlett” is also very determined, and has no intention of ending her quest to find her Ashley. I suspect she goes to sleep each night calling out “Oh Ashley, Ashley”. However, this is no movie. This is real life for Tammy Navinskey of St. Joseph, Missouri, not a movie that will end in a few hours. Her daughter, Ashley Martinez, now age 16, has been missing since July 6, 2004.

I compare Tammy to Scarlett because of her sheer determination and drive to find Ashley. She is one a handful of moms I know who, on a daily basis, seek out new places on the Internet to place a photo and information about their missing loved one in the hopes that he/she will be found. In addition to constantly seeking out new awareness tools, Tammy also has taken up a battle with the state to increase the age of consent.

This latest battle of Tammy’s comes because it is believed that Ashley left the state with a 32 year-old convicted felon, Christopher Hart, who lived near the Navinskey’s home. Hart was eventually arrested in Washington and brought back to Missouri, but Ashley was not found with him, nor did anyone in Washington see her. Hart is in prison, and he is not talking. This is Tammy’s biggest frustration. The one person who holds the key to the mystery of Ashley’s location refuses to cooperate. It is also Tammy’s biggest regret in that she did not realize that Ashley was seeing this man. She fears that he may have sold her into prostitution or harmed her. Another “wild card” in Ashley’s story is that she suffers from bi-polar disorder, and does not have her medication with her. What part does that play in this awful, seemingly endless movie?

On July 6, 2005, Tammy, and her husband, John, held a prayer vigil at the location where Ashley was last seen. They invited me to come and speak, which I was glad to be able to do for them. Family, friends, and the people of St. Joseph gathered to remember and honor Ashley and to give hope to her parents.

I observed at the vigil that our “Scarlett” is loved deeply by many, and also has an unselfish, generous side to her. I was very touched by the fact that she asked what she could do for me and for Jason, my missing son. So did some of the townspeople. I sent them some posters and a few of his photo buttons from the Adopt a Missing Person program. Even in the midst of her tragedy, Tammy still reached out to help others.

Photos of Ashley, and some of her favorite belongings were placed lovingly on a table at the vigil. A candle of hope burned for her, and served to light the candles of all who came to be with the family. We came to know Ashley through Tammy, and want to fight to bring her home, too.

Even through her tears, this dedicated mom shares her daughter’s spirit, hopes, and dreams: “Ashley Martinez is a very beautiful young lady with a great sense of humor. With some of her cute sayings that she comes up with and her beautiful smile, she can brighten up anyone’s day from the moment she enters a room.

Ashley wants to be a model when she grew up and she is beautiful enough to succeed with this dream. Ashley enjoys drawing, reading, talking on the phone, and spending time with her friends. When she would have her friends to our house for a sleepover they would spend time in her room putting on make up, painting fingernails, and fixing each other's hair. Ashley also enjoyed watching movies about teenage girls or love stories, like the Titanic. She and I would often watch some of the lifetime movies together.

Most of Ashley's enjoyment was centered around her family, friends, and pets. She has two brothers, an older one and a younger one, who miss her so much. Her friends still often call and check on her and us. They also miss her so much. Her pets miss her so much too, and the love that she gave them was wonderful. Two months prior to her disappearance, Ashley had picked out her very own kitten and named him herself. She chose a long haired gray kitten and named him Coco. He was very small when she disappeared, but now she would be so surprised of how large he is.”

There are, of course, life lessons to be learned from what has happened to this family. Tammy recognizes this, along with the changes that have some along with the trials: “Yes, a very big lesson and one I will never forget or repeat. You never realize how precious people are until they are gone. Don't get me wrong, we always knew that our daughter was so special to us, but when you get caught up with jobs, bills, and unexpected occurrences you tend to overlook what is right in front of your eyes. We have always tried to show our children our attention and love, but when something like this happens, you find yourself wondering if it is enough and if we ever get that opportunity again, we will never wonder if it is enough.

My husband and I have come to realize that not only does our daughter need us, but we need her just as much. We always knew that we loved Ashley so much, but never realized, probably because we were so busy being parents, that you need your child just as much.

This is the hardest impact on my life that I have ever had to deal with and I can speak for everyone in our family when I say that none of us will ever be the same. We are surviving to bring Ashley home, but we will never really "live" until she is home and I know that she is in a safe environment.

Our family was a normal fun loving family before July 6, 2004. That day changed our lives forever, a day we will never forget, and it could happen to you. I have always read and seen photos and information about missing people, but never did I dream that someday our daughter would be one of the missing people. Without warning, a family is living the life of the missing, and it could happen to anyone, so please take the time to help. Never take for granted that it wouldn't happen to you because you never know and, unfortunately, our family and so many other families are living proof of that.

Everyday I work to contact the media, nonprofit organizations, talk shows, and editors of magazines with hopes that they will display Ashley's photo and information out for public view. I feel that these efforts are helpful and some are very hard to achieve, but also gives families of missing loved ones hope that their loved one will return. This hope is what gets us up everyday and continue our search, and we will never give up, not until Ashley is home.”

Tammy and Ashley used to watch movies together, movies like “Gone with the Wind”.

In the movie, Scarlett proclaims: “As God is my witness, as God is my witness they're not going to lick me. I'm going to live through this and when it's all over, I'll never be hungry again.”

I can easily picture Tammy saying: “As God is my witness, as God is my witness they're not going to lick me. I'm going to live through this and when it's all over, I'll have my Ashley back home.”

We can help bring an end to this nightmare of a movie that Tammy’s family is living through. No matter where you live, go to Ashley’s website, and print a poster to place. Give this family the gift of hope and remember that as Tammy said: “It could happen to you.” Let’s not let tomorrow be another day without this Ashley back home where she belongs.

Ashley's website:


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