I received this photograph this morning. I saw the text before I opened the message, asking me to look at a photograph to see if it could be you. So of course I assumed that it would look nothing like you, which is usually the case when this happens. I opened it, and first focused on the boy in the center, but then my gaze wandered over to the girl on the left, and I was shocked. This photograph looks so much like you. Libby said if she had found it lying on a table, she’d have assumed that it was a family photo. Alex said he had to look closely at the boy in the photograph to make sure it wasn’t him because the girl looks so much like you. The face is partially obscured, so we can’t be positive, of course … but from what we can see there is a very strong similarity, and the hair, the body type, the posture, even the choice of clothing are all you!
The woman who sent it also included some information about this girl. She said this girl was always coming over to her house, that she loved playing with the younger kids and was very nurturing. All this sounds like you. Nurturing you were, and also so outgoing. I remember when we moved to a new house, you so boldly walked across the street and knocked on the door where Trina lived and said, “My mom’s friend said a girl my age lives here and I’d like to meet her.” You’d ask for what you wanted also, it seems. I’d always wondered about the pearl necklace you wore in the school pictures I got after you were kidnapped. Awhile back someone wrote to me and told me that it was her pearl necklace, that she’d worn it on picture day and you’d liked it so you asked her if you could wear it.
The woman had wondered about the resemblance of this girl to you, but had thought it couldn’t have been you, because you surely wouldn’t be out wandering around the street, and you had never asked for help. This girl went by the name Tamera or Tamara.
I had to wonder about that myself. Around about the time she guesses this picture was taken (1990), I was just starting to think that you couldn’t possibly still be alive, because if you were alive then surely you would have found some way to contact me…. Many things have happened since then, though. Things I’ve seen, heard and read, that educated me. I read a book called “The Perfect Victim” about an adult woman who was kidnapped and she was told by her kidnappers that they were part of a huge sex slave ring, and that she couldn’t go for help because many in the police force and government were also part of this ring, and if she did try to get away those people would kill her family. And it worked. She stayed with these people for years. When she wasn’t being kept in a coffin sized box underneath their bed, they’d leave her alone to babysit their children while they went to work. At one time they took her for a brief visit with her family, and then she went back home with them, to get back in the box under the bed.
If that can be done to an adult woman, what could be done to a child?
I was thinking today about Jaycee as well. I was thinking about how she didn’t want to talk to the press or give interviews after she was rescued. You know, I think part of it was that she wasn’t prepared to answer that question about why she stayed, why she didn’t try to escape. I guess I was thinking about that because I was thinking that if you were found, if you came home, you might not want to have to try to explain that either.
As hard as it is for me to believe that you could be out there somewhere and not want to contact me, I have to accept that it could be true. As hard as it is to believe that you could actually possibly read these letters to you and not try to contact me, I know that could be true as well. I’m told Shawn Hornbeck read letters his parents posted online to him while he was kidnapped. He was gone for five years … nothing compared to the time you have been gone, and yet an eternity.
I know, Michaela, I know that it’s possible. I know that you could have every good reason. I could never hold it against you. Yes, certainly I have suffered in the last almost 23 years that you have been gone. Yes, it would have saved me from that suffering if you had come home. But Michaela, my suffering is not for me. It’s not because of what I have had to endure. My suffering is for you. It is for all the thoughts, all the possibilities of suffering that you may have had to endure. My suffering is for you, even just because of the fact that as a young child you were robbed of the love and protection you needed and deserved and which I longed so much to be able to give you! You know, it looks to me as though the girl in this photograph has a cut on her lip. Some have said it looks like a shadow, but I’m not convinced. It makes me think of someone hitting her in the mouth. That is my suffering, Michaela.
What I’m trying to say is that you would have no reason to feel guilty for not having tried to get in touch with me, for not escaping and trying to come home. Do not ever feel guilty because you think you put me through something difficult. I just want you to be okay.
Awhile back, our detective and I were both getting some e-mails from someone who identified herself as “an advocate” who intimated that she was in touch with you and you didn’t want to be in touch with us. Well, my feeling is that she was not telling the truth. If she was, the most obvious thing about her was that she wanted to be in control of the situation. If she was telling the truth, and if you are out there with someone who is encouraging you not to make contact with your family, that person just simply doesn’t have your best interests at heart. That person does not love you. I love you. We all love you. I know that … I have always known that. But I could see it so clearly demonstrated as your brothers and sisters today saw this picture and said, yes, that absolutely looks like Michaela. Alex said, “Okay, now how do we find her?” followed up by, “I hope she’s okay.” Libby cried so hard she got sent home from work in the middle of the afternoon.
Michaela, you don’t owe anybody any explanations. The only debt to be paid here is to you, and that is just plainly and simply all the love I have been saving up for you for the past 22 years, 8 months, and 30 days. (By the way, if you ever want to know how long you have been gone, you can look at your wikipedia article – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michaela_Garecht – there is a counter in the box on the right side.)
I’m just going to say it again. I LOVE YOU MICHAELA! Come home!
I’m just going to finish up here with a couple of pictures. Here is a photograph of your nieces, Alex’s girls. On the left is Shylah, who is four. In the center is Raina Joy, who is six, and on the right is Kalia, who is two. You know they’d love to meet their Auntie Michaela.
And here is a photograph of the back of my car….
I love you forever, baby girl … as long as I’m living …