Jack’s Journey

Filmed in daylight

by Rick Johansen

It is not often that I am driven to quote William Shakespeare. I was forever turned off his work at Briz (Brislington) School when in English literature we carried out a forensic dissection of Julius Caesar. I concluded, probably wrongly, that if Shakespeare’s work had been any good, we’d have been able to work out what on Earth he was banging on about just by reading it. Yesterday, when I was on social media contemplating the disappearance in Bristol of the 23 year old student Jack O’Sullivan, I was somehow reminded of Shakespeare’s reference to “Th’ Milke of humane kindnesse” or the milk of human kindness as we would refer to it in more modern language.

The meaning of the milk of human kindness is, quite simply care and compassion for others, something the good citizens of our city have expressed for Jack since he disappeared after attending a party in the early hours of 3rd March, exactly four months ago today. Police have sifted through mountains of CCTV, tracked down countless people who were in and around the area in which he disappeared and basically done everything in their power to find him, yet it seems they are no nearer finding him than they were in the beginning.

I have heard it said that people are sympathetic because they know that Jack could have been their son, or daughter, and it does not require a great deal of people’s imagination to imagine what his family are going through. But I think it’s more than that. People have seen Jack’s young, fresh and beaming face in the media and they like what they have seen. They have seen his desperate parents, who just need an answer, frankly any answer. The not knowing must be killing them. We have not made it about ourselves. We feel the pain of the family and the reactions we feel and the actions we have taken are what makes us human.

In recent days, many people have been sharing this video of Jack’s final journey on social media. There is only one reason they are doing this: the same reason I have shared it. We just want to find Jack. On social media, people are hoping their social media friends might have their memory jogged in even the smallest way. We know, from experience, that the tiniest snippet of information can make the biggest difference. I know of people who have opened up their social media settings from private to wide open in order to share the video as widely as possible.

Just last week, I drove through the area where Jack was last seen on CCTV and saw numerous posters showing his handsome, smiling face by the roadside. I was touched by what I saw. At that time, if I could have one wish it would have been to see Jack, to pick him up and take him back to his loved ones. Not to be some kind of hero, but to see normality resumed, to take the pain away, to make everything right again. It was only a daydream, nothing more, but I would wager we all feel something like that.

There have been some theories, some of the conspiracy variety, so-called psychics have climbed on board offering nothing beyond crackpot suggestions which merely muddy the already muddy waters. Mostly, overwhelming, the search for Jack is driven by love. The milk of human kindness.

We wish for a happy ending or at worst an ending of some sort. I don’t need to explain what the ending of some sort might be. The current four month limbo the family are going through is impossible to imagine.  But at a time in our country where everything feels broken and nothing works, we still have love and I am grateful for that. Without love, where would be right now?


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