May 30 marks the anniversary of the date that the world heard about Natalee Holloway, a missing teen from Alabama who, along with 100 of her classmates, had taken a trip to Aruba to celebrate their high school graduation. While her body has never been found, and in January 2012 she was officially declared dead, her story rocked the nation and helped raise awareness about missing persons. Alcatraz East, a new crime museum in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., is paying tribute to her on the anniversary of her disappearance.
“Natalee Holloway is a name that millions of people are familiar with, because we all felt the fear and pain of her disappearance,” states Janine Vaccarello, chief operating officer for Alcatraz East, “By paying tribute to her we keep her memory alive and help to continue awareness about the importance of missing persons crimes and traveling safe. Natalee is a face that represents many others who are missing as well.”
On May 30, 2017, there will be a Natalee Holloway tribute at Alcatraz East. They will honor her by adding a marble etching of her that was part of a larger memorial originally created and erected by a local man when she first disappeared. The image will become part of the Unsolved Cases section of the museum, which features information about her, as well other cold cases like JonBenét Ramsey, whose case is still receiving national media attention, and Amber Hageman, whose case spawned Amber Alerts. The section also highlights the Natalee Holloway Resource Center which was founded by Beth Holloway in May 2010. The center focuses on educating the public on traveling safe, as well as guiding loved ones on steps to take if a person does go missing.
According to the National Crime Information Centers, as of December 31, 2016, there were over 88,000 active files on people who are missing in the country. During 2016 alone, they report that there were over 674,000 people reported as missing in the country, which includes those who were later found. Of the current active missing persons’ cases, 38% of them are under the age of 18, and 48% are under the age of 21.
The U.S. Department of State cautions travelers, warning that U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness when traveling. Alcatraz East offers visitors a wealth of tips that can help keep them safer when traveling both domestically and abroad, including:
• Making a point to always be aware of your surroundings, and not become distracted, which will put you at risk. It’s important to be alert at all times.
• Know your surroundings and stay in control of every situation. Look and act confident, like you know where you are going. Do not look lost or confused; simply look for a person in authority or business where you can ask for directions.
• Never flash your money in public. Exchange funds with reputable and recognized exchangers only.
• Do not discuss travel plans, your room number, or any other personal information in public within earshot of strangers.
• Watch for scams on the street. Children working with adults are notorious as pickpockets.
• Avoid public demonstrations and other civil disturbances.
• Learn the emergency number for the country you are visiting, because 9-1-1 does not apply worldwide.
• Always visit Department of State website for information regarding which country you will be visiting. They provide safety tips and share information about what crime issues tourists may encounter there.
• Provide your family or a close friend with your itinerary, all travel information and contacts. Write down important contact numbers that you will need, in the event your cell phone gets lost or stolen.
“There is nothing we can do to be 100% free from risks when we travel anywhere in the country or abroad,” states Vaccarello, “But there are a lot of little things we can do to try and reduce risks and help keep ourselves safe. We hope that Natalee Holloway’s anniversary helps shed light once again on this tragic story that plays out for thousands of families each year.”
Alcatraz East officially opened December 16, 2016. The new crime museum is located at the entrance to The Island, at 2757 Parkway in Pigeon Forge, near the Margaritaville Hotel and Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen. The 25,000 square foot museum is designed with a jail façade, and has a star-studded board of experts who make up the Advisory Board, including Jim Willett, a retired prison warden, Anthony Rivera, a combat veteran and Navy SEAL chief, and Judge Belvin Perry, Jr., best known for the Casey Anthony trial.