The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Beth Holloway Speaks at SMU

For many graduating high school seniors, taking a trip after graduation is tradition. Parents watch as their children pack their bags to celebrate this landmark in their life. Many times, these parents will remind them to take safety precautions because they are going on a trip without them. They double-check that their children have remembered to bring the essentials: a toothbrush, extra underwear for freak accidents and in some cases, their passport. They see their children off and watch with glee as their pride and joy waltzes off to celebrate one of their largest accomplishments to date.

For Beth Holloway, this day was one of her proudest. Her daughter, Natalee, had recently graduated from high school with over a 4.0 grade point average, awarding her a full academic scholarship to the University of Alabama. She had just completed a dance career with her high school team and developed into a strikingly beautiful young woman. Holloway drove her daughter to a friend’s house, where she would depart for the airport and fly to Aruba to celebrate graduation. She said her goodbyes to Natalee and watched as the dark silhouette of her daughter’s body walked up the front path and went into the house. She didn’t know at the time, but this would be the last time she would ever see her daughter.

Tuesday night, Beth Holloway, a woman who Barbara Walters selected as one of the world’s most fascinating people, shared the tragic story of her daughter’s kidnapping to SMU students at McFarlin Auditorium.

On May 30, 2005, the last day of her trip to Aruba, Natalee Holloway vanished. Sponsored by Pi Beta Phi and Hotel Palomar, Beth Holloway shared her story and how she has overcome such a huge obstacle. Liz Grayson, coordinator of the event and member of Pi Beta Phi, said Holloway’s story is valuable to students.

“She has more courage than most people and after the tragic loss of her daughter, she has fought to increase awareness of a topic that is often overlooked,” Grayson said.

Holloway said four days after dropping her daughter off for her senior trip, she received the phone call that parents dread. She was told that her daughter didn’t arrive at the airport that morning. Holloway recalls quickly making arrangements to get to Aruba. Upon arrival, Holloway found Natalee’s belongings neatly packed ready to return home. Natalee’s friends said the last they saw her she was getting into a silver Honda outside Carlos’ n’ Charlie’s, a popular nightclub in Aruba. This is the last living memory of her, Holloway said.

Holloway said that once she got to Aruba she followed a wild goose chase of tips from both officials and strangers. She spent days roaming the streets in search of her daughter. Holloway said the hardest part was trying to find her daughter in a country that does not honor the same laws as the United States. She said she was told of many possibilities of her daughter’s whereabouts: in a Jeep, stowed away in a crack house, or even abducted and taken into slavery.

“As we frantically searched for our daughter, [Aruban officials] asked us not to disturb their crack houses, not to disturb their prostitutes and asked our family how much money we had,” Holloway said.

For Holloway, trying to get help in this desperate situation was like being in another world, and in reality, she was. She said that despite all the tips and running around, Natalee was nowhere to be found.

Beginning to lose hope, Holloway said that she was descending to the lowest point the human spirit can fall. She recalls trying to find another way to survive the nightmare. The hope that she would find her daughter was rapidly becoming a fantasy, she said.

“I became resilient and decided I would pick up one foot, put it down, and the other would follow. There was much work that needed to be done for Natalee,” Holloway said.

Holloway returned to the states where she was greeted with overwhelming support not just by her hometown community, but also from the entire nation and abroad. She said that magnificent things happen when people come together to support others. From volunteering to help with Holloway’s search for answers to simply tying a yellow ribbon to their mailbox, vast amounts of people came to her aide, she said.

Just months ago, all of the hard work paid off. Holloway said she got the break she had been waiting for. The first and only suspect, Joran Van der Sloot, the driver of the silver Honda, confessed on a hidden camera to sexually assaulting Natalee. He said after she had a seizure he disposed of her body in the ocean. Holloway said she believes Natalee was given a date rape drug and overdosed, causing the seizures that Van der Sloot described.

Joran Van der Sloot is the son of an Aruban judge. Holloway said that despite his confession, the Aruban officials won’t do anything against a judge’s son because their system doesn’t work like the United States’. Holloway compared Natalee’s situation to The Wizard of Oz, saying that when you leave the United States, you are “not in Kansans anymore.” Travelers must adhere to the customs of the country they are visiting, she said. Being a teacher, Holloway asked herself what she could do to teach others from her tragic lessons.

Since Natalee’s disappearance, Holloway has founded TravelEd workshop. TravelEd is a program for college and high school students to teach about pre-departure education and safety. Holloway said that her daughter had a false sense of security among her many friends and was blind-sided. It is critically important to prepare for going abroad before leaving, she said. Her hope is that she can make TravelEd available to high schools everywhere.

“I want you to remember it is now your responsibility to watch out for yourself. Your parents aren’t going to be around to watch over you anymore,” Holloway said.

Students reacted to Holloway’s story with emotion and sincerity. Megan Haslam, a junior public policy major and member of Pi Beta Phi, said that listening to Holloway’s story was an eye-opening experience.

“It’s devastating to hear that a family had to go through this. The important thing for those of us lucky enough to hear the story is to take the lessons Holloway is teaching to heart,” Haslam said.

Holloway said that hope is what got her through such an upsetting experience. She said hope is a universal message that better times are ahead. It nourishes the soul just as food nourishes the body.

“The hope that filled her heart fills mine. It brought me here tonight and it will see me through tomorrow. Please remember that you have your own back [while travelling], and please remember Natalee,” Holloway said in closing.

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