Approximately eight years ago, on the second of April 2008, my family experienced a tragedy.
Back then, the nine of us lived together under one roof in a suburban Melbourne house. There was Grandpa, Grandma, Dad, Mum, my older sister Sally, my two younger sisters, and my brother.
We were the typical Chinese family. We respected our elders, came home on time for dinner, helped out with the family business when we could, kept face and studied hard.
The day before Sally disappeared, she, my boyfriend, my brother and I played tennis together. Afterwards we went home as usual, had dinner together as usual, then locked ourselves in our rooms as usual.
The next day, I went to work and everyone else did the same. That same morning, I received a call and was told Sally hadn’t shown up at work. Initially I shrugged it off, assuming she was just with her boyfriend.
However, as the day progressed it was clear Sally was nowhere to be found. She had disappeared.
What happened after that was a blur. The family was frantic; everyone was emotional, there were tears, anger, silence and pain. Desperation of all things consumed us all. We were desperate for answers.
We spent hours driving around in the hopes of finding Sally in a park, on the street, at her favourite places. We phoned businesses to let people know she was missing. We ransacked her room to find any indication of where she might have gone. We accessed her Facebook account and contacted all her friends. We hired a private investigator. We turned to fortune tellers and psychics and went to temples to pray.
It was a difficult time for us all.
To this day we have not located Sally, nor do we have any answers as to what happened to her. My family, my friends, friends of Sally and the community she created have continued to live their lives not knowing. Sally’s sudden disappearance has left a hole in everyone’s heart.
Sally was my big sister. She was a respectful, warm, loving and put others above herself. I looked up to her and wished we were closer. She had the ability to bring people together in her community.
From the outside, she seemed to have it all.
To have her just vanish one day was more shocking than you could imagine. The questions forever burn: where is she? What happened to her? Did she choose to leave? Or did the worst happen?
The only thing we do know is that at least one person in this entire world knows something about where she is, or why she left, or how she disappeared.
People wonder – were there any indication or signs of her wanting to leave? I wouldn’t scream 'yes', but it did happen three months after her return from Beijing, where she'd lived for a year. Right after coming home she resumed helping mum and dad out at the family business, spent time with the siblings, and it seemed like everything was back to normal.
Yet in hindsight, if you had asked me if anything was out of the ordinary I would have named one moment.
It was a passing comment Sally made when we were in the car together, where she shared with me that she was sick of the curfews imposed at home and alluded to a desire for more freedom. At the time I was quite surprised by her remark.