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One of the first posters put up after Jacob went missing. 

I remember when Jacob Wetterling went missing. I was a freshman at Waseca High School and one day in October, all sorts of missing posters went up around school. I studied Jacob’s face on the poster that was hung in the science hallway; he was just three years younger than me. Abducted by a stranger; where was he? Surely he’d be found, hopefully alive.

For twenty-seven years we hoped. The probability faded year after year, but there was always that hope for Jacob’s family. In the years since, we learned about children and young women like Jaycee Dugard, Elizabeth Smart, and Amanda Berry. They went missing and were found alive, later reunited with their families. Surely it could happen to Jacob, too.

But now, today, closure. Painful closure for the Wetterling family, for sure, but closure nonetheless.

Jacob’s case touched all who heard it, but especially those of us in Minnesota who grew up with his name on our lips and on our minds. I was 14, almost 15 years old when he disappeared, and so I already knew the world could be a dark place where bad things happened. But in that poster, the dark side of the world became a little more real. Jacob was not just a story; he was a little boy with bright eyes and a wide smile. Jacob’s case reminded us there could always be hope.

Until today. Everyone who remembers the day he went missing is a little sadder today. We know it can be too optimistic to wish for the best, but we still do anyway, until we are forced to see the darkness. We want to see light, but today we can only see dark.

 

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