Over the years that you have been gone, I have had a thousand fantasies of what it would be like when you came home. Seeing Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight found has reignited those fantasies. I was so moved by the crowds lining the streets and cheering for these girls, and I wanted you to see their story. Michaela, when I tell you that the world is longing to hear those words, “I am Michaela Garecht,” I am not exaggerating. In the days after you were kidnapped, the response of the community was so huge you couldn’t drive down a street in Hayward that wasn’t lined with flyers with your face smiling down from them, and those flyers stayed up for ages. Now, almost 25 years later, the love has not abated but seems to have grown. In the wake of Jaycee Dugard being discovered, your story went out again, all over the world, and with the world being so much smaller these days, so closely connected by the worldwide web, it isn’t just the local community that knows your name. It is an international community. There are people all over the world who are longing to hear those words, “I am Michaela Garecht.” In fact, I have been touched by the number of people who have messaged me and said that when they heard that missing girls had been found, the first thing they thought of was you.
I am posting this video, because I want you to see this story. You can hear Amanda’s call for help, the pure terror in her voice. But then you can see the photograph of her with her sister, the joy on her face. You can see, also, Amanda’s daughter. Her face is actually blurred in this video, but I’ve seen it in other places, and she has a big grin. I would be surprised if you didn’t have children of your own, Michaela, and I know that their welfare would be uppermost in your mind. Please know that everything possible would be done to assure their safety and well being. Please know that they would be loved and welcomed with open arms by your family, by the world.
One of the things that struck me when I looked at this house, when I saw this story, was that it did indeed remind me of the movie “The Peanut Butter Solution,” like the people you wrote the poem about, who had been kidnapped and were being held captive. And the spark of hope in my heart flared, remembering again that your own prophetic words were not about people who had been kidnapped and killed, but about people who were being held captive. At the end of the movie, those people were freed. Amanda, Gina and Michelle are free. And I know, Michaela, that it is your destiny to be free.
I know that breaking free of whatever circumstances you may be in would be difficult, would be frightening. Remember what I told you, when we were together, that whenever you are scared, whenever you are sad, even if I can’t be there with you in person, I am always with you in your heart. Touch your heart, and feel me there. I am reaching out across the miles that stretch between us, and I am holding your hand. It has been the most difficult thing I have had to face, knowing that you needed me and not being able to find you, not being able to get to you, but you have never been completely alone. And remember also what Pooh said to Piglet, “If ever there is a tomorrow when we’re not together … there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart, I’ll always be with you.”
But the unknown of what you would find after freeing yourself might be frightening, too. Wherever you are, if you reach out for help, help will come. You will be taken to a safe place. It might be a hospital, as with Amanda, Gina and Michelle. If you are in another country, the first place might be an embassy, and then a safe place in a safe country. Wherever you are, I will come to you, and probably some of your other family members will come as well. It’s pretty certain Libby will come. I have posted one of your journal entries for school, about how annoying it was that Libby followed you everywhere, and how I told you that she just does that because she loves you. Well, she did, and she does. Of course, everybody in the family loves you and misses you, but Libby’s heart is really tied into searching for you, second only to me. And Johnna might come, too, the little sister you have never known. Maybe your dad. At home, Robbie would probably be waiting, and your stepdad, Jeff. All the kids still live with me, except for Alex, and they are all really funny, so it’s a fun place to be when everyone is here.
Alex and your dad both moved out of the area, and Alex doesn’t often drive out here, but if he doesn’t we will go and see him, along with his wife and daughters. Your dad will probably come and see you, but if not Libby can drive you out to visit him at his house. There are friends, people you have never met but who have tirelessly helped to look for you and supported me in my search for you. There are your old friends. Trina, remember her? She lives in another state, but I’m willing to bet she will come to see you. John Spahn and his wife, Michelle, are both friends of mine and keep you close in their hearts, and they live nearby. Debi Varner and Anthony. Kara Kelliher is in another state, but even she might come. Remember the Cabrals? Little Terrah, who we used to babysit … well, she’s not so little anymore. She is very much grown up, and has her own daughter … named after you, actually, with a different spelling. I actually talk to her sister, Cherise, pretty regularly on facebook. I hope nobody minds me posting their names in a public place, but I am hoping that some of these familiar names will stir in you more good memories of friends you loved, who love you, who stay in touch with me and who I know would love to see you again.
Then there is the world. Michaela, there are so very many people all over the world who have genuinely come to love you. They have supported me, have supported you, have shared in this long and difficult journey through grief and pain, and I have always wished I could share the joy of your homecoming with them. And I will, through this blog, and through the media, share my own joy and thanks. If you feel up to thanking them yourself, you would have the opportunity to do that. But if you don’t want to, for any reason, nobody will try to force you to, nobody will try to talk you into it. As much as you wish to embrace the world, the world will embrace you back. As much as you need or wish privacy, you will be protected.
And you will be protected from any harm, Michaela. If people have told you that you would be hunted down if you escaped, that your family would be harmed, DO NOT BELIEVE THEM. You will be safe, and we will be safe. I guarantee that. Remember what you were taught in your child safety programs. Remember what we discussed at home. Kidnappers lie. Don’t believe anything they tell you. If you come home, you will be safe.
In various places in this blog, I have featured photographs of your family members, some information about them, so that you will feel comfortable, so that they will not be unknown to you, so they will not feel like strangers. But here are a few again.
|Left to right, Robbie, Johnna, your stepdad Jeff, me, Libby.
This is not the best picture of any of us, but it’s rare to get one picture with all of us in it. This was taken last year on the anniversary of your kidnapping, actually in the very spot where you were taken. It is the place where the nightmare began, but the other thing this place represents to me is the spot where you spent your last moment of freedom. The tree is covered with yellow ribbons, some with personal messages written to you on them, from family, friends, and strangers who are all waiting to hear those words, “I am Michaela Garecht.”
Here is a photo of your dad with Libby at the anniversary remembrance of your kidnapping.
Alex has moved away from the Bay Area and doesn’t drive out here very often, but here is a photo of him with two of his daughters:
|Alex with his daughters, Raina and Kalia.
Along with a stepdad, you have a stepsister as well, Ariel.
And speaking of friends, here are a couple you might remember who came to your anniversary remembrance:
|Here is a picture of Debi Varner with me.
Seriously, just seeing Debi makes you want to hug her, doesn’t it?
The guy on the left, by the way, is your stepdad, Jeff.
|John Spahn and his son tying ribbons on your tree.
And let’s not forget the dogs. This is a picture of the living room, and in the lower right corner you can see Bella. She is a chocolate lab. She likes to bark and has a really deep voice. Believe me, she will protect you.
This is Spike, looking out the living room window. He is a little six-pound Miniature Pinscher. He also likes to bark, but he is not terribly scary. By the way, you can’t really see it in this picture because it was a foggy day, but we have a beautiful view. We live in Nana’s house, which you probably remember. It is three stories off the ground, so it is pretty private.
What I can’t put in a photograph and paste on this blog is my heart, Michaela. My heart is always waiting for you. Houses may have changed, friends and family members may have changed and grown. But the room you came to occupy in my heart on the day you were born has never changed. There is nothing, nothing that could have happened in the last 25 years that could change my love for you, my appreciation of you, my respect for you. You have an inner light that shines in the world even though you are hidden. I know you may have a hard time seeing it yourself, or believing in it, but it is true, and all the darkness in the world can only make it shine brighter. Your destiny is greater than the horrors that have been thrust on you. Have faith, my sweet girl, in yourself, in the love that surrounds you, in the light that leads you. Have faith, have courage, come home.
Love you forever,