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Life without answers: What happens when a loved one goes missing?

Life without answers: What happens when a loved one goes missing?

A person is reported missing every fourteen minutes.

Life without answers: What happens when a loved one goes missing?

Words by Cat Rodie

Michael Modesti was last seen on Monday 9th May 2016. It’s been an agonisingly long time for his family.

Speaking to MiNDFOOD, Michael’s sister, Gisella Modesti, says that the family have been forced to live with the many unanswered questions they have about their loved one’s disappearance. “His disappearance is completely out of character and we will never stop searching for answers,” she says.

“People don’t realise that behind the label of ‘missing person’, is a family who are forced to live each day wondering if they will ever see their loved one again, whether they will ever get a chance to say goodbye, wondering whether they will ever find peace.”

The shocking truth is that Michael Modesti is just of 70,000 people to have been reported missing in the last two years. To put it in perspective, that’s one person every fourteen minutes.

For the general public, a missing person could be a news item on the radio or a poster on their morning commute. Perhaps we remember the high profile cases, but the rest pass us by – yesterday’s news.

For the families of missing people the experience is very different. “They are sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, family, friends and soul mates. They are not only missing people but missing pieces of people’s hearts,” says Gisella.

Today, Sunday 5th August marks the start of National Missing Person’s Week. Loren O’Keeffe, CEO of the Missing Person’s Advocacy Network hopes that the week will inspire the general public to become more aware and engaged.

To highlight the stories of missing people O’Keeffe launched the Unmissables. Working with artists, the initiative is modernising milk carton campaigns with biodegradable coffee cups that feature the faces of six long-term missing people.

Each design shows an image of the person along with a 100-word micro-story that highlights the character and individuality of the person. They will be available at 20 Melbourne cafes.

O’Keeffe says that the Unmissable coffee cup campaign will be a welcome change to the well-known stark, grainy ‘milk carton photos’ of missing people.

“The coffee cups are the result of families collaborating with artists and writers to create specific, heartfelt portraits of missing loved ones. These vibrant artworks go beyond the vital stats to humanise missing loved ones and give the public an opportunity to engage,” she says.

Families of the six featured people (Nicola Sallese, Naz Woldemicheal, Warren Meyer, Nick Veljanovski, Bung Siriboon and Owen Redman) hope the campaign will bolster their search which often dies down after the initial spike of media coverage.

Michael Modesti’s family are also harnessing art to reinvigorate the search for answers. During NMPW, Gisella, and her mother Gail will be travelling to Melbourne to watch as a vibrant mural of Michael is painted in Hosier Lane as the latest addition of the Unmissables.

While the artist works on the mural, Gisella and Gail will be handing out flyers and talking about Michael in a bid to engage the public as much as possible. Understandably, they are emotional.

“While we are so humbled and excited by the opportunity to have such an amazing tribute of Michael made for us, we know that with it will come that overwhelming sadness and grief, that relentless heartache and harsh reality that this is actually happening to us, that Michael is our missing person,” says Gisella.

Thinking of her brother, Gisella says that is a much loved and dearly missed son, brother and father. “He had style and charm. He knew how to make people smile. Whilst Michael knew a lot of people, his family meant the world to him.”

This National Missing Persons Week Gisella asks that we all pay more attention to the plight of missing people. “NMPW highlights the importance of connecting a face to a name and then a story to that face,” she says.

“We want to strip down the taboo by helping others to understand that missing people are real people.”


To support the Unmissables click here: 

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