August 15th, 2011
09:28 AM ET

Familiar spotlight on Aruba after disappearance stirs up local frustration

The disappearance of Robyn Gardner has brought the international media back to Aruba, and Arubans aren’t happy about it. After the prolonged investigation without resolution in the Natalee Holloway case the summer of 2005, tourism took a hit. The locals are nervous and not keen to see us again.

There is no way to keep a low profile on an island when you’re CNN. A photograph of us reporting in front of the prosecutor’s office was on the front page of the island’s most popular paper, The Diario, the day after we landed.

Since then, other networks have followed us to Aruba. NBC’s satellite dish now sprouts from the hotel grounds. An unnamed television team was having lunch near the site where Gardner reportedly vanished while snorkeling. Once the manager of the restaurant knew they were members of the media, he threw them out, refusing their money for the meal they had already been served. It’s a very strong reaction for a place whose maroon and white license plates boast “One Happy Island.”

That’s an extreme example. I have been here many times, and always, unfortunately, for bad news. I was here for much of the Holloway frenzy, but even now, I find most here are extremely polite and friendly. However, if you ask them if they know anything about the current case and would they be willing to be interviewed, people grow silent. Twice my requests were met with the same response. One person said “here is someone who could talk" to me while writing down a name and phone number. Only it was the number for the island’s solicitor general, and I already had it.

This story, although tragic, hasn't reached the Holloway kind of media madness, at least not yet. But like then, rumors are quick to spread. On the beach by the Marriott hotel north of town, the buzz was that Nancy Grace had arrived on the island the night before on a private jet.

The Aruban government learned from its mistakes in the Holloway case. This time, immediately after Gardner was reported missing, a very aggressive search by land, sea and air was launched. The solicitor general, who is the spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, is readily available for interviews, and police quickly asked the FBI to assist their investigation in the U.S.

Another important difference? The person of interest is an American, not one of their own with ties to the justice system. The politics are not the same.

But many of the faces of the returning members of the media are the same.

The greeting I get from friends on the island is often with a sigh: “It’s nice to see you, but not necessarily good to see you.”

Post by:
Filed under: Aruba
soundoff (268 Responses)
  1. Tanisha

    First of all, it's not far to give the whole island a bad rap for couple of high profile mishaps. What people don't understand is, people go missing everyday. People are murdered everyday. But only about 1% of that gets national coverage. The media is to blame, people. They control what we are exposed to! WAKE UP!!

    August 15, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Chris

    So let me get this straight... This chic who has a boyfriend, went to Aruba with another dude? Nice

    August 15, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
  3. greton

    This is BS and nothing like Holloway
    I am not Arubian, never been there and do not know anyone from there but comparing this to Holloway is outrageous.
    This lady disappeared during the day while snorkeling- Holloway disappeared in the middle of the night after partying with strangers.
    Comparing this to Holloway just because it happened in Aruba is irresponsible of Cooper and CNN.
    This something that could have just as easily happened in Honolulu, Miami, Los Angeles or any number of beaches around the US or the world. Maybe she was swept out to sea, maybe the boyfriend was involved desn't matter this is not a Holloway situation.

    August 15, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Evrgreen

    Why insult each other when you really don't know what happened? Anything could have happened in this case: She drowned or using Aruba's reputations is hiding somewhere from something or someone. Or the woman was really murdered or maybe taken by bad people..the question is: why did she pick Aruba to go on a solo excursion? Knowing what happened with Nathalie...People don't learn. Why going to Aruba or Mexico or Columbia or North Korea or the Middle East? Yes the world is messed up but there're still safer places to visit..

    August 15, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Norm

      Well sure....we should all hide in homes.
      Keep the doors locked and the blinds closed.

      August 15, 2011 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • katincal

      If you have listened to any interviews by people that know her you would know she does not snorkel. Also, she did not go solo. She planned on meeting the other American man (that she supposedly went snorkeling with) there in Aruba. He is guilty of something (we just don't know what).

      August 15, 2011 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Antje

      Considering the crime rates of the US any place outside USA is a safer place.

      August 15, 2011 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Linda Frazier

      What most Arubans find irritating is that Americans go on and on about Aruba being unsafe. As if it's so safe in the U.S.: with all those rednecks, serial killers and rapists walking around there. How many people disappear each day in the U.S.???

      August 15, 2011 at 7:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • TravelSafe

      Linda- when did rednecks form a triad with rapists and serial killers?

      August 16, 2011 at 8:43 am | Report abuse |
  5. ROM

    Maybe she was sold to the highest bidder, she might be living in the desert now and never to be found.

    August 15, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
  6. TheAnt

    Why would you go with someone to Aruba that you just met on the internet.

    August 15, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
  7. edka

    Aruba is a nice Island. It is less safe today than it was twenty years ago but it is still much safer than most other Islands.

    August 15, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
  8. r.ortiz

    the guy that was with her is not cooperating with the authorities, he indicates to as one strange person what was he in relation to her?

    August 15, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Patiat

    The restaurant should charge Nancy Grace, and then throw her out without serving her. She's a shrill pig of a woman.

    August 15, 2011 at 7:09 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Joe McNemar

    I was listening to one of the "experts" on CNN talking about the lack of waves on the west side of the island. "Calm waters" on baby beach. I have been snorkling at baby beach several times. I dont know if this man is guilty or not. BUT. I am a strong swimmer. I am also a SCUBA diver. Those gaps in the rocks that form baby beach will suck you right out into open ocean really quickly. When you head is underwater looking at fish, it is very very easy to lose track of a person right beside you. It would only take 1 minute of looking down or feeding fish to lose a loved one.
    I personally have see a woman get sucked out and drowned in this exact spot in 2010. Happened right in front of us. She ended up 100s of yards where she went under. Soooo, I wouldnt jump to conclusions on what can or cant happen at Baby Beach. Ive been there and have seen it. Is he guilty? I dont know. But it is verey possible he may be telling the truth. I mean the girl was on vacation with another man while was supposed to be somewhere else. Do people think they were down there drinking coa coa? Come on!

    August 15, 2011 at 9:05 pm | Report abuse |
  11. silly2

    Only an idiot would hook up with someone they only knew from the internet. He's so creepy looking, did he not send her a picture before hand? And Linda, I don't think Aruba is unsafe, I just think the police there helped a murderer get away to murder again. Come to think of it, that is kinda unsafe. And yes, we have rednecks, serial killers & rapists but they are usually not all the same person.

    August 16, 2011 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
  12. Whitney

    Makes me so angry! If only they would ahve started a search this quick with Natalee we might have had some answers instead of years of wonder. Praying for the family of Robyn and for her safe return and still praying for Natalee's family!

    August 16, 2011 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9