Arubans showed concern for missing Alabama girl

Published 10:43 am Monday, June 20, 2005

By by Tim Cottrell
Traveling to a foreign country is never an easy proposition, but it can be even more difficult when traveling in the midst of an international incident, as the Castleberry family of Atmore found out last week.
Keith and Patty Castleberry, and their twin daughters Kaylie and Kerrianne, both recent graduates of Escambia Academy, took a family vacation in Aruba, the tiny Caribbean island where Natalee Holloway of Mountain Brook disappeared almost three weeks ago.
Patty said it was amazing to see the concern the Aruban people showed for Natalee's well-being.
"They thrive on tourism," she said. "It wasn't just a situation of 'you're hurting our pocketbooks,' it was also 'you're hurting our pride'. It seemed to wound them to the core that they were being portrayed as perpetrating this. Everyone was talking about it. They just wanted to assure us that this never happens."
Keith agreed that the situation was an unusual event for such a peaceful island.
"Their car tag is 'One Happy Island'," he said. "The people there always come up to you and ask, 'Is this your first time?' And if you say yes, the immediate answer is 'You'll be back'. And it's true, I came back (the family took a vacation to Aruba last year, as well). But the people on the island seemed almost apologetic about the whole thing. They are very concerned about the girl and about travelers in general. They go out of their way to make sure you're safe."
While in Aruba, one of the Castleberry daughters, Kaylie, was not feeling well, so the family stuck close to the hotel for the most part. But Patty said that things became awkward on a few occasions when the family went out on the town.
"We wandered all around downtown last year," Patty said. "We didn't get to do that as much this year because Kaylie was sick, but there were a couple of occasions, one time getting on the elevator and another time when we were eating at a restaurant, that people thought Kerrianne (who is blonde) was Natalee. We kind of laughed it off and people realized it wasn't her. Also when people found out we were from Alabama they asked us a lot of questions, like if we knew Natalee."
Both Keith and Patty agreed that the situation had not made their daughters uncomfortable.
"They weren't nervous," Keith said. "They'd been here before and we were with them everywhere they went."
"It wasn't too bad, because the Arubans were really trying to make everyone feel safe," Patty agreed.
Keith said that the situation would not affect any future decisions to travel to the tiny island paradise.
"I'll probably come back, not anytime soon, though," Keith said. "And that's not because of what's happening, but because of airline fares."
Patty said the main adjustment to coming back to the states had been not seeing posters of Natalee everywhere.
"When we got back and went to church Sunday, I kept trying to figure out what was missing," she said. "The posters were everywhere you went there; in restaurants, in taxis, everywhere. No matter where you went there were posters of Natalee."

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