Do you remember Jacob Wetterling? He was abducted from a small Minnesota town on October 22, 1989 at gunpoint, while riding his bike outside with his brother and a friend. He was 11 years old. He was only one month and 9 days older than me.
His abduction... it hit me somewhere deep inside, moreso than almost any other worldwide event that I can recall during my childhood. He was so close to me -- age, origins, geographical location, family characteristics. He could have been me. I could have been him.
Even now, 15 years later, I still think of him sometimes. What happened to him? Is he still alive? How could he never have been found?
I was compelled just now to look him up on the web. Hoped that someone had learned something in the last decade and a half, that his family had been granted some sort of closure. Not so. No one knows.
His family has since established JWF, a foundation intended to protect children from sexual exploitation and abduction, and they have become strong activists working for that cause. On the webpage for the foundation, there is a letter from his mother to the man who abducted him. I cried, reading it. She is a woman of strength and speaks from her heart.
I still don't understand how such horrible things can happen. I don't understand how people can recover from it. When the abduction occurred, I looked at it from the perspective of an 11 year old, from the perspective of a possible abductee or the friend of such. Now I am older. I look at it from the perspective of a parent, a neighbor. I don't know how I would handle it, were I the one left behind, how I would ever find peace within myself. I am amazed that people can be so resilient, can heal.
If Jacob is still out there, I hope that he is found someday. I hope that he has been alive and well and has made it through all these years. If he hasn't, I hope that knowledge finally comes to light about what did happen to him. I wish for his family to find some sort of closure, to finally know. Not knowing -- that is the worst part of it all.