Twenty-seven years ago (minus fifty days) I started a search for someone I never met. I’ve been looking out of the corner of my eye ever since that day on October 22, 1989, for a patch of red in every bean or cornfield I pass. Every time I walked or hiked a trail along a river or a forest stream anywhere in the State of Minnesota I looked for an eleven-year-old boy named Jacob.
I was a college freshman, albeit a twenty-three-year-old college freshman, the day Jacob Wetterling was abducted and I heard about it that evening when I was at a Michael W. Smith concert in downtown St. Cloud. I walked home that night along the banks of the Mississippi River searching for that child. I searched that river for hours that night. My friends thought I was nuts, but my heart went out to another woman named Patty whose life was forever changed that day. I went out to St. Joseph, through St. Cloud, all over Central Minnesota, looking for that kid. I walked for miles, through hills and valleys, swamps and forests. Every spare moment I had I spent looking for him until the snow was so deep and the weather so cold that it just wasn’t possible for anyone to find him alive.
I remember the day I decided to stop actively looking for him myself. I sat in the bathroom of Mitchell Hall and cried my eyes out, knowing, deep in my heart, that it was highly unlikely anyone would ever find him alive. I wondered then and I still wonder today if I walked past his body somewhere, if I missed some mound of overturned earth where someone buried him in a frantic, hectic, and evil moment.
Today is the end of my search. I can stop looking for him now. I can stop leaving my light on for him. Those feelings I had so many years ago when my own personal search for him ended have all come flooding back to the surface. My heart aches for his mother, father, and siblings. I cannot even imagine what is going through their hearts and minds on a day like today, to finally find him after such a long time.
I cannot understand what lurks in the heart or mind of a man who could sit by for this long and watch people going through the kind of longing and searching that people in Central Minnesota and the state as a whole have gone through. What kind of a monster lets people he talks to every day search in vain for someone, walks through forests and glens, swamps and gullies until their feet have blisters, when he knew it was for nothing? I don’t want to understand that kind of person. All I can say to him is may God have mercy on your soul because no woman or man on Earth will.
Today is a day to finally say goodbye in my mind to that search and to a boy I never knew and never found. May his soul continue to rest in peace. God has had him in his loving embrace all this time and will hold him forever. May his family someday come to find some semblance of peace from this unspeakable loss.