August 7, 2009.
I am writing this from the New York Academy of Medicine Library in New York City, With its wood -panelled walls, chandeliers, Flemish wall hangings, and high arched windows overlooking Central Park, this library looks as if it might have once belonged to one of those 19th century magnates like Andrew Carnegie.
Most people who've been following the case of Dr. William Ayres don't know this, but this hushed and genteel Manhattan -library, thousands of miles from San Mateo, is the birthplace of the current criminal investigation into Dr. William Ayres.
Exactly seven years ago to the day, on August 7, 2002, I had visited this library with the goal of helping out a friend of mine named Steve A. Prior to that visit, all that spring and summer of that year I had been listening to Steve talk about a child psychiatrist named William Ayres who, he sad, had molested him during therapy in the 1970s. It had gotten to the point where I could no longer stand the look of pain in Steve's face when he mentioned Ayres, and so I had volunteered to help find out what had become of his former child psychiatrist.
I had come to the New York Academy of Medicine Library pretty much as a last resort. Visits to two other branches of the New York City Public Library had been unsuccessful - partly because Steve had misspelled Ayres' name as "Ayers" but mostly because I was scared out of my mind to actually find Ayres. I knew that if I were to discover that Ayres was still alive that some sort of futher action would be required. And I just wasn't sure I was up to the responsibility of taking action or getting involved any further. I am sure that it was this fear that was causing me to do a half -baked job of looking for Ayres up to that point.
It had been a reference librarian at the Main Library on 42nd Street who had suggested that I might have better luck finding Ayres at the New York Academy of Medicine Library. I remember really, really not wanting to make the trip. It was a beautiful cloudless day with no humidity, in the 80s, (much like the weather here today).and what I really wanted to do was bag my mission to hunt for Dr Ayres -- for good -- and go for a swim. I still don't know how I forced myself to get on that Madison Avenue bus for the three mile trip up to the library but I do know I berated myself all the way up with thougts like:"What am I doing this for ? Nobody cares about this. This whole mission is dumb."
Seven years ago, when I first walked through the doors of the medical library, I thought I might discover that Ayres was either:
b) his license had been suspended
c) he'd retired and moved out of San Mateo
I was in no way prepared for what I did find.
Imagine my shock when I discovered in an ABMS Directory of Board Certified Medical Specialists that Ayres was still practicing at the same address in San Mateo where my friend Steve had seen him as a child. Imagine my horror when the librarian found a speech Ayres had given as President of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
Imagine how speechless Steve A was when I told him later that day about what I had found.
Seven years later,I am sitting in the American Academy of Medicine Library with the same ABMS Directory in front of me, open at the page where I first found Ayres' name, and thinking about how far this case has come. I think about the subsequent call I made to the San Mateo Police Department on August 8, 2002 to report the molestation. I think about a telephone call I received five weeks later from a detective in the San Mateo Police Department who told me they had files on two other victims of Ayres who had come forward in the past. I think about the relief on Steve A's face when he finally learned that he was not Ayres' only victim. I think about all of the victims who have come forward in the years since - 42 at last count and I think about the others who still have not. And I think about how everything would have been different had I chosen to go for a swim that day instead of making the trip to this library.