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Beth Holloway: Natalee is With God

Share This article In October 2004, Natalee, then a junior at the private Mountain Brook High School, asked her mother, Beth, if she could go on the exotic four-night senior trip to Aruba. It was a tradition that many senior classes before hers had taken.

Beth says Natalee deserved it; she was an honors student, ranked twenty-fifth in her class of 300 with a 4.17 out of 4.0. She was a responsible young girl who always made good decisions and did what she was supposed to do. 

So Beth agreed to let her go on the trip. A few weeks before the trip, Beth was worried about what she might encounter on a tropical island and warned Natalee before she left. (A former Mountain Brook student told Beth about an experience he had at a popular nightspot, Carlos ‘n Charlies. Some locals were trying to get a couple of his female classmates to leave with them but the young man intervened.) 

Before Beth knew it, it was Friday night at the senior prom. The next Tuesday, Natalee accepted her high school diploma and two days later, Natalee left for Aruba.

Beth was at a family lake house for the Memorial Day holiday. On Monday, on the way home from the weekend, Beth got a phone call from the travel agent. Natalee didn’t show up to get on the plane for her flight home from Aruba. 

“Instantly, I knew something terrible had happened,” says Beth. “I just answered the proverbial dreaded phone call that no mother or father ever wants to receive.” 

Jodi explained to Beth that the students were supposed to meet in the hotel lobby to board the buses for the airport. At that time, Natalee’s roommates notified the chaperones that she didn’t return the night before. No one knew where she was. She was missing. Beth’s mind raced. She prayed the first of a million prayers. 

“I asked God to give Natalee the strength to endure, if she was alive, until I could get to her,” says Beth. 

Missing her scheduled departure was so out of character for Natalee. Distraught and overwhelmed, Beth took a private plane to Aruba.            

Police discovered that Natalee was last seen at Carlos ‘n Charlies, the popular nightspot that Beth heard about. She was seen getting into a car with three young men. (The young men were eventually picked up, questioned and released. Beth says they gave numerous stories about Natalee’s disappearance and believes they have answers to her daughter’s whereabouts.) 

On Tuesday after Memorial Day, a local Aruban television reporter picked up the story. Word spread quickly about Natalee and soon the media requests were pouring in. (Natalee’s disappearance was the most reported story in 2005.)

After several days of searching for her daughter, chasing rumors and tips of possible sightings, Beth’s anger and frustration were mounting. She knew she was caving in and asked a cab driver to take her to a church. 

“The foundation of my faith is built on the teachings of Jesus Christ,” says Beth. 

Having prayed constantly, Beth felt the need to pray harder. The cab driver left the resort area and took her to a white cross. Beth looked beyond it to see a long row of crosses leading up the hillside. At the cross, Beth fell to her knees and cried. Anguished, Beth got up and moved to the next cross. As she reached the fifth cross, Beth says the answer to her prayers came. 

“Complete peace blanketed me,” she says. “It’s a familiar feeling yet unknown to me like this before. And in this instant I knew that Natalee is with God.” 

Beth continued up the hill and prayed at all 14 crosses. Four months after Natalee disappeared, Beth came home.  She realized that Americans in a foreign country expect the same kind of help and justice that they would get at home. 

“That’s idealistic,” says Beth, who vowed to take Natalee’s story to every high school podium. “When Americans leave the United States, we should be prepared to leave behind all of those expectations.” 

Beth started the International Safe Travels Foundation to bring a message of personal safety to high-school and college students traveling internationally.     

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