My Sister, Nicole Vienneau, Has Gone Missing in Syria - Updates from November 4th to 25th

November 25th (Evening):

Eighteen and a bit months ago when this started, I was inundated with emails every day. I took a month off of work so that I could follow-up on all the leads and contacts. Dozens (probably hundreds) of emails were left un-responded to and many of them still sit in my in-box, sometimes because they have an idea I want to be reminded of later, and sometimes because I'd like to respond to everyone who put an effort in and wrote to me (especially the lengthier emails with lots of ideas and opinions) though that's pretty unlikely at this point.

Those emails have stopped. A few weeks ago was the first week without any emails about Nicole. Then one or two trickled in, and then nothing again. I don't have any particular insight about this, and this isn't a plea for more emails, it's more of an observation. Early on a lot of people were worried that I/we wouldn't know when to stop, and it bothered me as well - at what point do you just give up? - but I suspect as emails drop off and items to talk about disappear, the temptation will increase.

But not this week. We've found some new advisors that have presented an interesting and aggressive plan for getting information on Nicole. To a certain extent, we've kind of hit the limit on what we can do by ourselves - it's tough to move governments when there's just a few of us - and the new plan acknowledges and addresses that.

Unfortunately, I can't share that plan just yet. Publicity often works against some of what we're trying to achieve, so we need to keep things quiet. There's also a chance that the plan won't go ahead - our new advisors are quite expensive (and our current advisors aren't cheap). It's not that we wouldn't spend the money if we were guaranteed that we would find Nicole, it's just that we've spent a lot of money already without really getting anywhere (outside of closing down a bunch of leads and possibilities), so we have to think hard about were to put our resources. This isn't a plea for donations, I'm just sharing the realities of these things. In the movies, people mortgage their homes and stretch their credit cards, and then the happy ending arrives and it's all paid back. In our case, there is no pot of gold at the end of this, just information, and a very, very slim hope that Nicole gets to return home alive. That would be worth almost any price.

November 18th (Evening):

I'm running out of ways to say "there's nothing new to add this week" but I want to make sure I stick with the regular updates because I know people are checking in. I've been given new responsibilities at work recently so I've been extra exhausted each night from long days. Makes it difficult to get excited about posting.

November 11th (Evening):

Over Sunday dinner, Mom and I discussed where we're at and what we're planning for the next few months. There are a number of things going on, but there is nothing solid, and everything moves incredibly slowly. Mom wants to get back to Syria before the end of the year, but we're having difficulty getting guarantees that people will be there for us to meet and talk to. There are a variety of approaches to the difficulties we're facing and it's tricky negotiating all the options and determining the best course of action. We certainly don't want to take any action that closes doors we might need, but we also sometimes face what seems to be indifference or a lack of urgency. As always, it's frustrating.

Mom sent me an updated list of donations this week and it's always so moving to read through them. Quite a number of people have donated a second time, which is incredible. And there are so many people that we don't know who have donated from all over Canada and the world - it's such an amazing feeling every time I go through all the entries. Thank you to everyone, both those that donate, and those that check in every so often just to see how things are going.

The donations are very helpful - we have a number of ongoing and completed (unsuccessfully) investigations happening that require significant funding (I wish I could tell you about all of them - one day I will). It's not going to put us out on the streets, but it certainly stings.

A CBC reporter was recovered from kidnappers this week in Afghanistan. There had been a media blackout for the past month while she was held, and it's believed that the Canadians at one point were going to send in troops to attempt to rescue her. What moved me the most was reading about the first thing she did when she was free - call her parents. You cannot imagine how much we long for that exact call. For the phone to ring one day and hear Nicole say, "Hi Mom". I manage to keep my emotions in check 99% of the time, but it's reminders like this that nearly bring tears to my eyes as I read them. It shows me that I maintain a sliver of hope, however slight, and that's probably what keeps us going.

November 4th (Evening):

With the disappearance of Brandon Crisp here in Ontario, I'm frequently reminded of Nicole, and the pain and heartbreak that his parents and siblings must be feeling. I relate so closely to the sense of "not knowing" and it makes it no easier to know that it will only get worse for them. The first few days after someone has gone missing you're hopeful as everyone gathers around to help find them. Then the days stretch on a bit and the worst fears repeat themselves in your head. And eventually you have to start grappling with the harsh truth - your missing person probably isn't coming back, and you're life has irrevocably changed.

Two years later, I am starting to accept that final step. Nicole isn't coming back, and my life has definitely changed. But it's almost back to "normal" which in itself is fearful - will we just continue on and have Nicole slowly disappear from everyone's memories? It's depressing.

Nothing new to report on the actual search. No emails, and no contacts with Foreign Affairs (that I'm aware of). Syria is in the news a bunch here in Canada, and not very much of it favourable to either Syria or Canada. For us, the big picture politics and other issues are not relevant - we just want to find out what happened to Nicole. But for the players we need to convince to help us - the governments and diplomats in both countries - it's all too important.

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