It’s been a while since I’ve written anything, but today seems like the day to scratch out a few words. I’ve had a huge lump in my throat for the last few days, and I’ve found myself frequently wiping my eyes as I read the news.
Jacob Wetterling disappeared about two months before Jen and I were married in 1989. It had such large coverage in the papers and on TV. As the story played out, it transitioned from a rescue, to a recovery, to an advocacy movement. Patti’s face was everywhere. She was fierce and persistent. I don’t know if she knew that her son’s disappearance would forever changed how we deal with child predators, not only in Minnesota, but across the nation. Even if she did, she would not have cared. This was personal.
And now the monster has been arrested, told his story, and been sentenced, all in the short span of five short days. As a parent – a dad – I am brokenhearted. I feel ill, angry, and so sad. I think about the family and the distraught state they are in. I think about the community, still stunned and in disbelief over what happened in their backyard. Most of all, I think of Jacob.
I read the testimony that came out of the hearing today, and it took me to a new depth of horror and sadness. I think about an eleven-year-old boy – I’ve had two of them – and how he must have been feeling at the time, in a state of shock – scared, confused, and alone with no one to protect him. How, with a bit of guilt in my heart, I feel relief that he died quickly, that he did not suffer over an extended period of time as so many other kids do. Beginning to end, it was all over in just a few hours.
For the family though it has gone on much longer. I’ve read many comments on the case since Thursday that say similar things.
Now the family can start the healing process.
Now there is closure.
Now we know the truth.
It is over, and there is solace in knowing that.
Now we can move forward.
These comments are well-intended – I understand that – but they are such bullshit. Knowing the truth does not make it better because the truth is horrifying. Knowing what happened to Jacob does not make it better. It makes it far worse. It amplifies the horror. It changes it from a series of hypothetical scenarios to actual, fact-based storyline that you can play back in your mind over and over and imagine what your child must have been living and feeling in those final moments.
I grieve for Jacob, but my heart is with mom and dad tonight. They’ve lived 27 years keeping a glimmer of light that things would turn out ok, and that was crushed last Thursday and made vivid today. The family is getting this new and real today, after 27 years of hope. There is no closure. There is no moving forward. The only hope left is that you can get up and put your feet on the floor again tomorrow.
The most hopeless part of this is that realization that there is nothing anyone could have done to prevent any of this from happening. These were just ordinary folks living their lives. This is the sad fact that we must all accept: While we can hope not to accidentally stumble onto a monster’s path, the truth is: The Monsters live among us.
To Jacob, I hope you knew much much you were loved. To the rest of the Wetterlings, I am so sorry. May you find whatever peace you can.