October is a very tough month for me. In October of 1990, I lost one of the most important people in my life to a drowning accident. My life has never been the same since that night in October. Losing Rodney Shaw changed my life forever. I miss his smile, his laugh, his jokes and our serious conversations about something or our daily discussions about nothing at all. The truth be told, I miss everything about him. But, at least I know what happened to him and could get closure by attending his funeral. I have friends that have not been given that opportunity to grieve like I did.
Twenty-five years ago today, a family’s existence as they knew it disappeared forever. October 22, 1989 will forever be the day their lives changed forever. That was the day that 11 year old Jacob Wetterling was taken by a masked man in rural St. Joseph, Minnesota. Over 50,000 leads have come in since then, but none have helped solve the mystery of Jacob’s disappearance.
Jacob, his brother Trevor, and his best friend, Aaron, were cycling home from a convenience store on October 22, 1989, when a masked gunman came out of a driveway and ordered the boys to throw their bikes into a ditch and lie down on the ground. He then asked each boy his age. Jacob’s brother was told to run toward a nearby wooded area and not look back or else he would be shot. Subsequently, the gunman asked to view the faces of both boys. He picked Jacob, and told his friend to run away and not look back otherwise he would shoot. The whereabouts of Jacob and the identity of the gunman remain unknown.
I met the Wetterling family for the first time in 1990. I have seen the place where Jacob was last seen. Every day since October 22, 1989, his parents have passed that very spot on their way to work or to run errands. I cannot imagine what goes through their minds every time they pass that spot. I do kinda get it when I am on the bridge over Bardwell Lake. My Rodney died in that lake.
Jacob was a very neat kid – cute, sweet, athletic and smart. He loved to eat steak and loved to play with his friends. He also loved his family. I have no doubt that if someone had not robbed him of his future, he would have been very success today. He loved to tell people that he and Michael Jordan had the same birthday. After he disappeared, Michael Jordan autographed a picture for Jacob to have when he came home.
Every October I hold out hope that one day, maybe today, Jacob will walk in his dad’s doctor’s office or open the door to his home and say, “Hey mom, I’m home.” Every year I think of Jerry and Patty, his parents and my heart breaks for them. Every year I think of his siblings, Amy, Trevor and Carmen and how they must miss him even after all these years. Every year I grieve with my friends for their loss and the loss of our world because Jacob is not in it.
So, if you see me and I am not smiling today, know that I am deep in thought about two amazing young men that are not around. If you have children, hug them a little tighter tonight in honor of Jacob. The end for now.