I spent part of my wife’s birthday recently looking for a dead body in the woods of Southeastern Pennsylvania.

Yes, really.

I joined a group of about 20 people who had gathered in Malvern, Pa. to search for the missing-and-presumed dead body of Anna Maciejewska, a wife and mother who went missing in April 2017.

Nobody outside of the immediate family (her husband Allen Gould and their then-three-year old son) had seen Anna for over a week when she was finally reported missing. She failed to show up for work on Monday, April 10th, which would’ve been her first day back from a combination of vacation and supposed sick days. When her vacation time was over, someone had texted Anna’s boss from her phone claiming that Anna was sick and unable to go to the office. When Anna didn’t show up again for work on Tuesday, April 11th, her company called Anna’s husband, who said that he hadn’t seen her since she left for work the previous morning. Anna’s employer called police to report Anna’s disappearance on Tuesday, April 11th, but her husband waited until the next day to notify authorities. By that point, she had been missing for at least 48 hours – and probably longer.

Red flags sprouted immediately.

The husband, an actuary for a large insurance company, ceased voluntarily cooperating with police before long. He also, in the great tradition of concerned husbands of missing women, lawyered up and clammed up.

Anna came to the United States from her native Poland to study Actuarial Science at the University of Louisville. Career considerations led her to a great job with a financial services company in Chester County, Pa, just west of Philadelphia. Eventually she married Mr. Gould and they had a son. Some friends say the marriage was strained, and Mr. Gould reportedly refused to sign off on a passport for their son. Anna had hoped to bring the boy to Poland on March 30, 2017 to see her homeland and to help celebrate Anna’s father’s 80th birthday. She abruptly canceled the trip, notifying her parents by text messages that contained glaring errors in the Polish language, Anna’s native tongue.

Police, once they were finally notified that Anna was missing, found her car a few miles away from her house, meticulously backed into a parking space. Those who knew Anna say her style was to barrel into a parking space sideways at 60 mph while rushing to get to someplace, since she was habitually late. Backing into a space and parking carefully was, her friends say, markedly out of character.

Anna’s friends and colleagues [notice the word “husband” is not used] have organized search parties, posted flyers, and have done everything they can to spread the word and attract media attention to this poor woman’s plight. We’re now past the one-year mark since her disappearance and there has been no palpable progress in the search. By all accounts, Anna was a very loving and engaged mother and the chances that she’d voluntarily abandon her young son a month before his fourth birthday are zero.

Anna’s elderly parents in Poland, both cancer survivors, are grief stricken, frustrated and angry. And to make things worse, Anna’s husband has reportedly prohibited them from seeing their now four-year-old grandson.

Anna was not a young, attractive model or a wealthy socialite, and she didn’t fit into most of the other categories of missing persons anointed by the media as being worthy of intense and prolonged coverage. She was just an average American, like you and me, and she has vanished from the face of the Earth, leaving her family and friends distraught and seeking answers.

Most likely, you’ve seen clips on the news of packs of volunteers searching fields, woods and riverbanks for the remains of crime victims. It’s a horrid task and, in a way, nobody wants to find the object of the search – a body – as they cling to a sliver of hope that the person is somehow alive. That is, unfortunately, almost never the case.

But I can tell you that the search for a missing person is also a heartwarming act; it’s people banding together to help one another in a time of unimaginable stress and grief, especially for the victim’s family. An act of despicable inhumanity, the killing of an innocent person, paradoxically gives birth to an outpouring of love and unity among many, including people who did not know the victim.

In this instance, the search itself was probably more symbolic than pragmatic. With Anna having been missing for more than a week since anyone outside of her house had seen her, the perpetrator had time to transport her remains to a swamp in Florida or a lake in Maine. We looked under rocks, behind tress and everywhere else that was feasible within the parameters of our search area, but, unfortunately, we found nothing of value to the investigation. A neighbor believes that a blue tarp went missing from Anna’s backyard around the same time that she did, so there’s a chance that her body has been weighted down and is underwater somewhere. Her son reportedly also told a teacher that “Mommy is hiding in the water.”

For now, the best hope for anyone interested in seeing justice served and respect for human life preserved, is to keep Anna’s story alive, to not let it fade into oblivion. Maybe someone will remember seeing something or will encounter a bit of information or evidence in their daily life that will provide the break that’s needed to solve the case.

Anna’s voice has been silenced, but many people are stepping up to speak for her, to keep the search, and her memory, alive. It’s an old, but true, cliché: It could happen to any of us. Or our loved ones. So, while the search effort was ostensibly “a waste of time” as far as producing evidence, it was, nonetheless, a reminder that there are plenty of good people on this Earth, willing to selflessly help others in a time of need. The mere act of strangers congregating to help someone who could not repay the kindness is, in itself, a beacon of light and goodness in an otherwise dark hour for humanity.

Thankfully, the vile animal who took Anna from her family and friends belongs to a very small minority.

One of Anna’s friends summed it up like this: “We don’t want her son growing up thinking his mother didn’t love him and she just ran off and abandoned him. We want him to know that she loved him, and we want to bring closure and justice to her family.”

If you’d like to help Anna’s family in Poland, and her young son in Pennsylvania, you can do so by sharing this article (and/or others like it) to keep the message alive. Anna, a good and loving human being whose life was unjustly taken, is out there somewhere, and a lot of concerned people are not giving up the search.

As one of mankind’s greatest minds, Albert Einstein, said, “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.”

Anyone with information about Anna’s disappearance is asked to call the Pennsylvania State Police at (610) 486-6280.