Minnesotans are all too aware that answers, much less good endings, are heartbreakingly elusive when a young person goes missing.
Jacob Wetterling, TV anchor Jodi Huisentruit, St. John’s student Josh Guimond and little Leeanna “Beaner” Warner of Chisholm are among those whose disappearances remain unsolved years after they were last seen. But rarely, tragedies like these have an outcome that inspires hope — not just in the possibility that the missing might come home one day, but that good people placed by fate in a position to help will rise to the occasion.
When that happens, it’s worth taking a pause to celebrate lives saved, families reunited and concerned citizens who intervened instead of taking the easiest path: minding their own business and walking away.
The miraculous rescue in Ohio this week of three young women kidnapped and kept in captivity for a decade or more is such a moment. The joy and amazement accompanying their escape understandably swept across the nation. The reaction to the viral video of an interview with the women’s rescuer — McDonald’s-loving neighbor Charles Ramsey — has as much to do with a collective sense of relief as it does Ramsey’s wry observations about the surreal situation he found himself in.
The video made Ramsey an Internet sensation, which then led to Internet scrutiny of his own past, but this should not obscure the fact that, in this case, the correct outcome occurred. Ramsey acknowledges that he could have simply walked on, unsure what to make of the girl frantically trying to get out of a neighbor’s house. But he stopped to help — something many others would not have done because of outdated views that domestic violence should be handled only by family.
There’s an unwelcome tendency by some to say that the Ohio kidnappings had a happy ending. The reality is that this story is just beginning for these three brave young women. They must now restart their lives after years of unimaginable horror. Fortunately the remarkable courage of Elizabeth Smart and Jaycee Dugard, who gracefully reclaimed their lives after horrific kidnappings, offers reassurance that Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight can flourish with support from family and community.
It’s clear that the Ohio families never gave up looking for the missing women even as the years accumulated and the public memory of the disappearances faded.
In Minnesota, the Wetterling, Huisentruit, Guimond and Warner families still await answers, as do the families of Kira Trevino, Danielle Jelinek and Mandy Matula — three women whose recent disappearances may be linked to domestic violence.
More than 40 other Minnesotans are listed on the state’s missing persons clearinghouse website. They didn’t just vanish into thin air. Someone, somewhere has a critical piece of knowledge about each of these cases. It’s time for those who know to come forward and if not answer these families’ prayers for a loved one’s return, at least provide the balm of having these investigations come to a close.