It has been an exhausting day. My husband woke me this morning with a kiss on the cheek. I remember I had my mouth open, and I closed it because I didn’t want to look too stupid. Then he started whispering in my ear, “Do you remember Jaycee Dugard?” The name sounded familiar, and my sleepy brain started trying to place it. “She was kidnapped 11 years ago in Tahoe,” he continued, “and I just heard on the news that yesterday she walked into the Concord Police Department, 28 years old, and alive.”
“Oh my God!” I cried, leaping up. “Oh my God!”
We parents of missing children are all very different from one another. We start out at different places, and end up in different places. Yet there is a bond of sorts, so that when something happens to one, it happens to all of us. When the Pinole Police Department announced that Curtis Dean Anderson had confessed to kidnapping and killing Amber Swartz, just the brief description of his confession that was released in the media was heartbreaking. Hearing that she was taken to Arizona, I pictured her on this long drive away from home, that she was killed in a motel room. No gory details were necessary. My heart was there with that poor little girl. And I felt for Kim, I felt with Kim, Amber’s mother, when she said, “We don’t have anything. We don’t have a sock, we don’t have anything.” We are accustomed to questioning, those of us with loved ones who are missing, and we would all find it difficult to accept even a signed confession without some concrete proof.
So yesterday morning, Jaycee Dugard’s mom woke up and went to work. It was an ordinary day, just like all the other days in the last eighteen years since she lost her daughter. Then at 4:00 she got a phone call, and her whole world changed. Just as her world had changed on June 10, 1991, when her daughter was kidnapped, it revolved once again and snapped back into place. Her daughter is alive.
My first reaction was just pure elation. Jaycee was alive, and I was overjoyed about that. While I feel for all the missing children, Jaycee has always held a particular spot in my heart because she reminded me so much of Michaela. Ever her kidnapping was similar, as she was dragged into a car in front of an eyewitness and driven away, never to be seen again, as Michaela was. She is the same age as Michaela as well.
I was elated also because it proved, IT CAN HAPPEN! MICHAELA CAN STILL BE ALIVE!
I was more than elated … I was downright hopeful, because often the solving of one kidnapping case leads to the solving of others. I was particularly hopeful that Michaela might have been right there with Jaycee, or they might know where she is.
As the day went on, I began to hear more details about what this poor child has endured, how she has had to live for the last eighteen years, I began a descent from that elation into a deep sadness. There are so many things we don’t know, things which may never be fully revealed. Maybe it’s not as bad as I think it is, or maybe it’s worse. I had to take a moment and wonder, would I rather my daughter had spent the last twenty years living like this, or would I rather she had spent the last twenty years in a place where there is no suffering. But I had to answer, I would rather have her alive. I am sure Jaycee has suffered, and that she will have a lot of healing to do, and I know there are some things we never heal from completely. But she is alive, and she is with her family once again, and just imagine all the delights that lay ahead for her! I pray for healing for her, that the joys in her future will totally and completely eclipse the sorrows of her past.
And as the day went on, I began to acknowledge that this probably wasn’t going to lead to a solution in Michaela’s case, and that if it did, it likely wouldn’t be a good one. If this guy had kidnapped Michaela in 1988, and then had kidnapped Jaycee in 1991, and she had never seen Michaela, that would not bode well for Michaela, I think. But you never know. This guy seemed to be some kind of a would-be cult leader. Perhaps he had followers, and perhaps they had other people’s little girls also.
Throughout the day, however, I just had to keep coming back to one thing. Hope. I kept remembering Michaela’s poem, which she wrote just a week before she was kidnapped:
The people knock on doors of steel
The people knock, the people kneel
They think of things that aren’t real
Outside the doors of steel
The people walk, the people know
That outside those doors
The people know
The people think that you may say
The people think that they, too, may
They lack the confidence you have
They think it’s real, the dreams you have
The dreams they feel
Michaela told me at the time that it was about people who had been kidnapped, and were being held captive, like in the movie The Peanut Butter Conspiracy. Then a week later, Michaela became one of the people who had been kidnapped, and I had to think that this poem was somehow prophetic. I’ve always believed it held some mysterious key to what happened to Michaela, but what? Today I just kept coming back to what Michaela had said. “It’s about people who have been kidnapped and are being held captive.” She didn’t say it’s about people who have been kidnapped and killed. They were being held captive. They were alive.
I have realized in recent years that if Michaela’s case were to be solved, there might be things I’d have to hear, that I’d rather not know. And that’s true, either way, whether she is alive or not, because all really happy choices ended the moment the kidnapper grabbed her and threw her into his car. But I have to know that Michaela is not suffering. So if she is alive, she needs to be found NOW so that she will not have to suffer anymore. And if she is not, I guess I need to be able to hear that, just in order to know that her suffering is over, and she is in a good place now.
I keep thinking, if I write enough, if I spread myself out enough over the internet, on television, maybe Michaela will see. Maybe she will know that I am still looking for her, and maybe she will find courage enough in that to break free and come home. I just never can wrap my mind around the alternate universe in which she would likely be living, without internet and television to let her know that we are still looking for her. I don’t know where she is. I don’t know how to reach her, or if I can. Michaela, I love you, I love you forever!
And if by chance someone reads this who knows where Michaela is, if you know, please, please tell me. Leave a comment, send an e-mail to email@example.com, send a letter to P.O. Box 55844, Hayward, CA 94540. Leave a voicemail at 510-995-7085. Just tell me, please. Please.