The Yellowhead Highway that cuts through Prince George is known as The Highway of Tears. There is a long list of women who have disappeared along this highway. A police task force continues to investigate. One woman didn’t seem to fit the pattern of the others: Wendy Ratte. Wendy didn’t go missing on the highway, but was last seen downtown. Wendy was a teacher and I knew her. She had been a substitute teacher in my class room not too long before she disappeared.
I’d had some concerns about the circumstances of her disappearance, because that subbing day, instead of the lesson I’d left for her, she’d brought in a script and did a play reading with my senior drama class. The play was Extremities. It is a very violent and graphic play about rape and justice. The kids were very upset about the language and theme. I remember wondering what was going on in her life that she thought it was appropriate that this explicit play of female revenge on a rapist be explored in a high school class room.
Well, now we have a little more inkling of her reality. Her husband has been charged with her murder. According to the news this morning, he has confessed and explained to the court that he dumped Wendy’s body in a swamp.
Perhaps the trauma of this news is deepened by the fact that in a painful coincidence I read Alice Sebold’s novel The Lovely Bones this week. It is narrated by a child who has been raped and whose body is never found.
The loss to the education community in Prince George and the loss to Wendy’s daughter seems particularly striking. Wendy’s daughter needs the closure of knowing where her mom is buried, so for her sake I’m thankful her father is owning up to his role in her mother’s death. How painful to have been told for years that her mother abandoned her, when the real abandonment was her father’s. Now she has lost both parents. What a tragedy. Finding something normal in every day life is going to be a challenge. Her whole world is upside down.
Rest in Peace, Wendy. You’re still teaching.