The Doe Network is a product of the Internet age - a collection of individual citizens brought together across great distances for a common cause. They share resources, communicate about cases, and work with law enforcement in the hope that they can find names for the unidentified dead. The first article I read about the Network is archived here. I still cry when I read it. It follows one of the original members, Todd Matthews, in his search for the identity of "Tent Girl", so named for the piece of canvas she was wrapped in when discovered. There is a similar article with more information here.
The second article contains this quote from Matthews:
"The one real fear in life is not death -- the greatest monster of all is the unknown. Particularly when the location of a loved one is the unknown. I see folks with missing loved ones literally writhing in pain."This gives a little insight into the reasons why so many Network volunteers spend their free time hunched over their computers, scouring medical records and message boards for the smallest clue that might lead to an identification.
The fearism I posted started with "fear of the unknown/unidentified". The Doe Network and what I learned about missing persons was my inspiration for that. My fears about the unknown are largely related to becoming unknown myself - going through life without making a difference, or affecting other people in a significant way. To die without a name is one of the worst things I can imagine. I suspect many of the volunteers feel the same way - or they empathize with those left behind, and feel an obligation to bring closure to long-forgotten cases.
Their obsession with the dead is a help to families, medical personnel, and law enforcement in a very real way. Hopefully our obsession will be a help in its own strange way.
Photo courtesy of Kim Fowles.