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Natalee Holloway disappeared in Aruba during May 2005 senior trip.
Courtesy photo
Natalee Holloway disappeared in Aruba during May 2005 senior trip.

Every parent's worst nightmare
Natalee Holloway's mom to share story of 'faith, hope' at Decatur church

By Paul Huggins
phuggins@decaturdaily.com 340-2395

Even though her teenage daughter was apparently murdered on a trip abroad, Beth Holloway Twitty said she would never advise parents to keep their children from taking international vacations.

Those trips should be a wonderful experience for their children, she said, and parents can still have peace of mind while their young travelers are away if they follow precautions. She will share those precautions Thursday at the fifth Child Safety Conference at Decatur Baptist Church.

Twitty, of Hoover, will be among several guest speakers who also include Sheriff Jeffrey Dawsy of Citrus County, Fla. He will present information about the kidnapping, assault and murder of Jessica Lunsford in 2005.

Twitty became a household name in America in May 2005, when her daughter Natalee disappeared while on a senior trip to Aruba. Her body was never found, and law officials have not prosecuted any suspects.

Twitty said she will share Natalee's story, which she described as "a story of faith and hope," but she wants attendees to leave with knowledge of how to make their children's overseas trips safer.

It starts by visiting www.safetravels
foundation.org., which provides updated information on preparing to visit specific locations.

Twitty advises parents to activate the international calling signal on their cell phone before embarking on the trip, so the young traveler can make calls in case of emergency. Second, check with health insurance providers to see if it covers a medical evacuation should the young traveler be admitted to a hospital in a foreign country.

Third, get the police precinct numbers for the cities the youths will travel to and enter them into their cell phones. This will be a big help should the child find their itinerary disrupted or passport stolen, Twitty said.

Also, make sure they know what type of transportation system they will use, such as taxis or subways, and make sure they understand the currency exchanges, she said.

'Be proactive'

"Those are some basic ones to start with just to give some parents a little more peace and assurance that their traveler's trip will be brought full circle," Twitty said. "A parent doesn't want to be reactive, they want to be proactive. That's the bottom line."

Twitty's time will include an Auburn University graduate student, who will discuss new curriculum the school is developing to prepare international travelers on legal, safety, customs and medical issues.

As for justice in her daughter's case, Twitty said there is a wrongful death case against two of the former suspects, Satish and Deepak Kalpoe, pending in a California court. The judge is deciding whether to dismiss it upon the defense attorney's request.

If the lawsuit stays in court, Twitty said, she hopes more interrogating and questioning will unveil what happened to Natalee.

No closure

"We don't have any closure or anything final at all," she said. "But I think what's helpful for me, is if it's about protecting our teens, then I want to be part of that and I want to help. If it helps in some way by sharing Natalee's story or sharing a Web site for parents to better prepare their travelers then I'm just grateful we're able to do that."

The conference costs $35, and includes lunch. Twitty will lead off the event at 8:30 a.m. It concludes at 3 p.m. Other speakers representing mental health, law enforcement, social services and education groups will discuss topics such as:

  • Identifying gang-related crimes and gang culture and lifestyles in North Alabama.

  • At-risk behavior and mental health of school-age children.

  • Prevention of sexual exploitation of children, identification of child sex offenders and Internet safety.

  • Trends in methamphetamine manufacture, distribution and use in the region.

    Continuing education credits and professional development credits may be available for nurses, social workers and educators. To sign up or for more information, call the Mental Health Association in Morgan County at 353-1160.

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