The moment that Jacob Wetterling was stolen from his life nearly every Minnesota’s life would never be the same.
On Thursday, October 29th 2015 – 26 years and 7 days to the day Jacob was removed from the arms of his family and his community – I, along with what I imagine were tens of thousands of other Minnesotans tuned in to hear the breaking news surrounding developments related to his disappearance.
Instead of a television, my small staff and I gathered around my computer screen, to watch law enforcement announce a “person of interest” during a livestream press conference. We watched and listened in rapt silence – waiting for the moment we would be told they had determined what and where Jacob had been for the past 26 years.
The moment never came.
Instead, the 52 year old man who was 26 when Jacob vanished – the 39 year old who was 13 – the 27 year old who was 1 and the 24 year old who had yet to be born – continue to hope for closure for Jacob and his Family.
Which, I can only imagine, will never really come.
Nor will it, I imagine in the lives of any of us who lived through the past 26 years wondering and waiting for Jacob to come home.
And, that is why; I think experienced journalists and television anchors like WCCO’s Frank Vascellaro found their heart in their throat yesterday when reading the statement from Jacob’s family.
Yesterday, I was Frank Vascellaro on the way home from work. The impact and the dramatic reminder that Jacob Wetterling is still gone from his life came back and walloped me right in the stomach, the heart and the tear ducts in my eyes.
It’s why the impact of yesterday’s news hit me differently at 52 than at 26.
For those of us who are now parents or those of us who have seen our friends and family’s children born and grow up through the years, Jacob Wetterling’s journey in this life has been with us from the moment he left us.
From the frantic hours, days, weeks and months where entire communities scoured the land, near and far, to find Jacob – to the years that have passed with increasingly less visible and public news about his disappearance – Jacob’s really never left our lives.
Certainly he never left the lives of his family and friends. I cannot imagine what yesterday’s news meant to them – nor what their lives have been like when time must have seemed to stand still 26 years ago for them.
It says something about us, as people, I hope, that Jacob Wetterling never left our lives.
I know that there were so many of us, for so long, who consciously and subconsciously, looked at the car passing by us, wondering if we might see Jacob peering back at us.
Or, the quick glimpse of a little boy down the street, quickly thinking, “Could it be Jacob?” and then realizing it was not.
From time to time there was some hopeful evidence that someone knew something. And, then the urgency of the news faded back into the other news of the day.
Then yesterday came. And, the news seems to bring Jacob closer to coming home.
I have never doubted there are people who know what happened to Jacob, and who was involved with his disappearance.
The Wetterling Family has never doubted this, either. Their statement reminds those who know what happened to Jacob Wetterling that their human and moral debt to the life of Jacob Wetterling has not been absolved.
In the hours, the days and the weeks ahead I hope, like I believe thousands of Minnesotans hope that a turning point has come in Jacob Wetterling’s journey.
He has been gone for too long. His family without him for too long.
Pray for Jacob. Pray for his family. Pray for those who took him.
Pray for those that know what happened to Jacob Wetterling to put him back in their hearts.
And, pray for Jacob to come home.