That Couldn't Happen to Me Part I
Some of you may have a missing loved one and some of you may not. Regardless, the same loving advice applies: Get yourself an ID kit, such as the one available for free download from our site, fill it out and keep it in a safe place in the event you (or any other family member) were to become missing. Make sure everyone in your family has one, whether they are 6 months old, 6 years old, or 60 years old, age matters not.
As a person in our situation would be, we are keenly aware of the need for ID kits, commonly thought of as child id kits. We never had one filled out for our own missing son, Jason, nor for ourselves as parents. We never knew to have fingerprints, dental records, or DNA samples for the event that he would be missing and we might need to use that information to identify him. We thought it would never happen to us, but it did.
A chain of events transpired that made us all the more fervent in our campaign to strongly encourage people of all ages to have id kits. There are no more excuses. There can be no more delays. Of course the odds of having two missing persons in one family are great, but no one person is immune. Couple this with the knowledge that a child disappears every 37 seconds in America, how can one ignore this? (Keep in mind that close to that many adults disappear, but stats are not always kept on adults, so no one knows for certain.)
In June of 2004, we went on a tour of Nebraska for Project Jason, handing out our id kits and meeting the public. On the 6th day of the 7 day tour, June 18th, I received a call from our police detective asking if we had Jason’s dental records. This is the call that every family member of a missing loved one dreads. It can only mean one thing: A body has been found that the authorities think is Jason.
There have been many times that bodies were located in our area, but we never had a call like this. In answer to the dental records question, we had none, as Jason has strong teeth and I was remiss as a parent in getting him regular checkups. I could not recall where he went to the dentist as a child. We also had no fingerprints and no DNA. We never knew to get these things taken care of when he first disappeared. No one told us to save his comb or toothbrush. No one offered to capture fingerprints off his possessions. We had nothing other than the ability to give our own DNA samples to be matched against the DNA of the body in question.
There was a John Doe located in California who was found in the Fall of 2003. An online researcher saw his sketch on a website and reported it to our police as a possible match for Jason. This young man was brutally murdered. You do not want to know those details. The coroner had been shown Jason’s photos, and we were told he thought it was him. Our police detective and the crime lab tech came to our home that very evening to get our DNA samples. They didn’t want to alarm us, but it seemed that they thought there was a good chance it was him, too, otherwise they would not have run the DNA, which is rather costly.
For the next two and one half weeks, we waited for these results, hoping and praying that this man was not Jason. If Jason was dead, we could do nothing to change that, but we did not want him to be the person who suffered this awful fate. I will not go into the details of the waiting, other than to share the great pain it caused. It was difficult to get through each day. We prayed for the strength to keep going, despite the horrifying thought that we might become the parents of a murdered child, rather than a missing child, and never have any answers to the mystery of our son’s disappearance.
The thought of Jason possibly having to go through a death like this nearly made us physically ill. We decided early on in the waiting that even though this was our private matter and our private suffering, that it would not be right to keep it to ourselves when we could use it to educate others.
The John Doe was not Jason. We then went back to square one of this unique waiting that we must do. In the meantime, we do what we feel God desires of us in taking our experiences and using it to help others. Jason would want this, too.
We do not want anyone to feel sorry for us. What we want is for people to listen to us.
Again, regardless of your age, and the age of ALL family members, get yourself an id kit and fill it out. Most local Law Enforcement will add your fingerprints to the kit. Take strands of hair with the root attached and place it in an envelope and attach it to the kit. If you do not know where your dental records are, find out.
If we had only had fingerprints or dental records, we could have found out that same day that the John Doe was not Jason and been spared the agony of this wait. If you are a family member of a missing person, and it is not too late to do so, make sure you have fingerprints, dental records and something for a DNA sample.
We revised our id kit after that to reflect the importance of all elements needed for identification, plus our challenge to get people of all ages to understand the need. You can download a kit here:
Thank you for taking the time to listen to me today, and please take action immediately because as we never would have imagined ourselves to be in this position, we are, and in just a few more seconds, someone else will be, too.