Some of my favorite memories come from the longest vacation I’ve ever taken, a 10-day sojourn to Belize almost five years ago shortly after I married my wife. Most of the small Central American country speaks English. You can spend United States dollars. The variance in landscape can be amazing.
I watched my wife feed a monkey a banana. I climbed to the top of a small Mayan temple. I walked along the floor of the ocean. My wife discovered she can become quite sea sick.
I don’t know if I’ll ever top the trip to Ambergris Caye and the resort and all of the small side trips. I truly enjoyed myself. We often talk of going back but kids and work and finances can make that different. I love to travel, but it’s not always easy to pull off.
Anne Swaney loved to travel, so much so that her family claims to be unable to remember all the places she visited. The last place she ever visited ended up being Belize, which creates a difficult juxtaposition for me.
How can a place with so much beauty also be the site of Swaney’s untimely death?
As I’m sure you know and possibly read about in our paper, Anne Swaney died at the age of 39, the victim of a heinous crime while staying at a horse farm in western Belize. The details are grisly, and there are no firm answers just yet.
Anne Swaney was seven years my senior, and I didn’t know her well. I have known her family and extended family for many years, and it seems surreal to see Dr. Jack Swaney on the news giving heartfelt answers to the reaction of his daughter’s death.
At one point, he told the interviewer, who didn’t seem to show much compassion in his line of questioning, that he went and visited his son’s grave last Wednesday. He woke up on Thursday with a daughter and didn’t have one by the end of the night.
Jack Swaney talked of the realization that he will soon have two graves to visit. He said what didn’t need to be said: it’s not fair.
John Swaney, the oldest of three children in the family, died two years ago. Now, the family awaits another somber ceremony this year with the surviving relatives left to remember and ask questions that really have no answer.
In the meantime, Anne Swaney’s story has become international news, partly because of the nature of the crime but more importantly because of her professional success. She was an accomplished journalist working in Chicago for the past 16 years.
But Platte City was her home.
Now, friends and family must wait for her return, pay their respects and say goodbye. In the meantime, those who lost touch of were friends from afar have a chance to reflect on who Anne Swaney was and how she ended up in Chicago.
From all I can gather and remember, Anne Swaney was a vibrant person involved in many activities throughout high school. Smart, caring, enthusiastic. That makes her journey to Northwestern University in Chicago and into the television news world unsurprising.
You just never expect for a journey like Swaney’s to end in this manner. For me, I don’t want to think of Belize this way.
I know firsthand there is beauty in Belize despite this horrific event. I can’t let the circumstance of Anne Swaney’s death define how she is remembered.
Remember how she lived, taking in as many moments as possible. Remember all that she accomplished in such a short period of time. Remember the lives she impacted not just here in Platte County but across the world.
Anne Swaney will be missed because we’ve truly lost something. She deserved better.
Ross Martin is publisher of The Citizen. He may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @Citizen_Ross.