By editorial board • 

Let no person in distress ever be a stranger to us

Meighan Cordie had few ties to Yamhill County. But when she went missing Aug. 18, following a Grand Island wedding, local individuals and agencies embraced her as one of their own.

So did the firefighting brotherhood — and sisterhood — throughout the Willamette Valley. Chalk that up to her father’s status as a captain with Clackamas Fire District No. 1.

Concerned islanders, residents of other parts of Yamhill County, friends and relatives from her home county, and an army of firefighters, joined local law enforcement officers in mounting a land, sea and air search. They covered more than 6,000 acres in all.

We think sheriff’s deputies and their law enforcement allies deserve credit as well. It’s easy to say, “They were just doing their jobs. They got paid for the time they invested.”

But they perform very trying jobs in very trying conditions, and they undertook this one with zeal, diligence and persistence. They were committed to rescuing Cordie from whatever fate had befallen her, as long as hope held out.

The outpouring of concern and support was as heartwarming as it was impressive.

Searchers were still clinging to hope when reality intervened. The morning of Aug. 23, joggers stumbled onto Cordie’s body about eight miles to the north, at the on-ramp from Wallace Road to Highway 18 Thursday.

The 27-year-old Clackamas woman went missing at 10:30 at night, without her shoes and cellphone, following an argument with her mother. They were leaving an island wedding venue at the time.

Her body was found well beyond a credible barefoot walking distance, and she died of blunt force trauma. While we still await an official determination of the manner of death — homicidal, suicidal or accidental — it’s not unreasonable to fear the worst.

Brandon Paxton, a fire district lieutenant, had this to say on behalf of members of her immediate family: “They feel the support and the love from people. I would ask that you continue to send those thoughts and prayers.”

Without the support of the neighboring Dayton and Grand Island communities, and the Oregon firefighting community, he said, “this would have been a completely different experience” for them.

While we recoil at the prospect someone might have been evil enough to take fatal advantage of a woman in obvious late-night distress, we rejoice at the tidal wave of aid and empathy that rained down in response. Let’s hope we never become numb to the victims of such tragedies.

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