Updated November 14, 2021: Sadly, Gordon Korac was found dead. His identity was confirmed and no foul play is suspected.
June 19, 2022 update: The body of Brett O’Grady was found.
First, it was a brand-new poster taped to the traffic pole at Caldwell and Merivale—I read it, of course, both because I read anything and because the light takes forever to turn green. This is how I learned that Brett O’Grady, a 35-year-old Shopify executive last seen on October 14, was reported missing.
A few days later, a Tweet caught my eye. I probably would have kept on scrolling absentmindedly for nothing if it wasn’t for the name I recognized. I knew this guy from a previous life when I was teaching French at the federal government—he was one of my students, now a missing 41-year-old man, last seen on Lusk St on October 19, 2021.
And today, once again on Twitter…
Three white males, 35, 41 and 46 years old gone missing in Ottawa in just a few weeks’ time.
I’m not starting a conspiracy theory or insinuating anything. I’m just surprised, I supposed. I don’t read every single Tweet from @OttawaPolice—I follow this account because it’s an easy way to find out what’s going on when you see a bunch of police in a neighbourhood—so for all I know, missing persons alerts are common.
And come to think of it, I do see a few here and there, but mostly it’s mostly elderly people who wandered off or kids abducted by a non-custodial parent.
I don’t want to sound dismissive. These cases matter, these people matter. But there’s usually an obvious reason explaining the “gone missing” part—dementia, a bitter divorce. The general public is asked to keep an eye out for these people and there are usually located fairly quickly, or at least I hope so.
Other cases automatically lead to assuming the worst. The number of missing indigenous girls and women in Canada is disproportionally high, and murders and suspicious deaths account for a large number of cases. They don’t get much attention and media coverage. It’s only in 2021 that the RCMP tried, at the national level, to identify how many First Nations, Inuit or Métis women and girls have been murdered or have gone missing.
I have to admit I find missing persons cases fascinating—unless they turn into crime, then I’m out.
Missing persons cases are relatable and intriguing to me for several reasons.
First, I’m pretty sure that one the road, I bumped into a few people who may have been reporting missing back home. Not like “wanted” missing but “packed up and never looked back” kind of missing. Back in the early 2000s, you could safely hide in some corners of Guatemala, Nicaragua or Honduras and live a new life disconnected from the world as the local, friendly gringo. I also met quite a few young Israelis who had deserted mandatory military service, plus an alarmingly high number of young Japanese who simply couldn’t take one more day of “salaryman” culture and had picked running away over killing themselves.
Second, it did cross my mind a few times that going missing sounds… well, tempting. It’s a bit like a call of the void situation—this feeling you get when you stand in a high place and think about jumping, but don’t actually want to and don’t actually do it. I wouldn’t actually go missing, I like my current life and I wouldn’t want to hurt people who love me. But alone in places far, far away, it did cross my mind that I could in theory just stop all communication and vanish into thin air just because I can. Obviously, staying missing is a whole different story…
… which brings me to the last point, going missing feels like a very antinomic situation—it’s both a big place and a small world out there, where it’s easy to vanish but where transactions, trips and access are recorded by banks, hotels, border control officials, airlines and security cameras and oh yeah, maybe vaccine passes. Leaving may look deceivingly easy, but staying missing is probably harder than it seems, starting with the fact that you don’t just “slip into a new life” like millions of immigrants around the world will tell you.
Going “fuck it” and checking into a hotel room for a few days or starting the car and driving far, far away is probably more common than it sounds—come on, haven’t you dreamed about it as well when life is too demanding or when it feels like another day in your routine is just too much? But by the time law enforcement and media get involved, I still think staying missing requires at the very least a plan because if you’re spending money, using your phone and showing your ID, you will be found. At least that’s what I’m assuming, who knows…
Still, I find these cases intriguing.
One of the missing men was located after I drafted this article earlier this week.
Brett O’Grady and Gordon Korac are still missing. If you have any info, contact the Ottawa Police Missing Persons Unit at (613) 236-1222 extension 7300.
I hope they will be found safe and sound.