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Editorial: Savanna's death should have us all asking questions

One week ago, on a beautiful late-summer evening, the body of 22-year-old Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind was found on the east bank of the Red River north of Fargo-Moorhead. It was bound in plastic and duct tape, a final disrespectful act perpetrated by those who seemingly saw her as only a vessel for the baby she carried and they wanted.

The crime shocked even those who fully know how evil some people can be. Many with no direct connection to the events cried when they began to understand what likely happened. For others, the circumstances remain incomprehensible.

Vigils for Savanna popped up all over the region last week. People everywhere felt the need to come together and share their pain for a young American Indian woman and her family they never knew.

Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney, on behalf of his city, took the rare step of publicly offering condolences to the family of a crime victim while thanking police and searchers who spent countless hours looking for Savanna after she disappeared on Aug. 19.

"Please remember that instances like this do not define Fargo," the mayor said. "Fargo is instead defined by our people's incredible spirit of resilience and their collective acts of support exhibited in the aftermath of difficult circumstances."

The mayor is right on. Savanna's horrific death doesn't define us. However, we'd be remiss if we didn't examine ourselves in the wake of this tragedy. Some questions worth asking ourselves:

• Did we take Savanna's strange disappearance seriously enough from the get-go?

• Do we take missing-persons reports in general seriously enough?

• Did Savanna's ethnicity or race cloud our early concerns for her well-being?

• Are we doing all we can do to protect the most vulnerable among us?

• Are we watching out for our neighbors?

• How well do we know our neighbors?

These are soul-searching questions and we at The Forum are asking these of ourselves, too.

Fargo-Moorhead and this region has always been able to tout its relatively low crime rate and its community spirit of coming together to solve problems. We are go-getters and we are capable of solving challenging issues because we are willing to do the hard work it takes to tackle them.

But this reputation as a safe and welcoming place is not a given and some might even consider it untrue today. We must work harder to make our community the place we want it to be, the place we know it can be.

That starts with each of us looking inside ourselves and honestly asking the tough questions in the aftermath of such an event.

Savanna's baby girl, Haisley Jo, was brought into the world under violent circumstances. She is just beginning to understand her surroundings. Even so, all babies, even her, represent hope for the future. What can we do here today that helps her see the best in our world tomorrow?

Editorials represent the views of Forum management and the Editorial Board.

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