Missing Michaela

By Sharon Murch

Michaela Garecht

Michaela Garecht

My daughter, Michaela Joy Garecht, has been missing for over 25 years, the victim of a witnessed stranger abduction. She was nine years old on November 19, 1988, when she and her best friend rode their scooters two blocks from home to the neighborhood market. They parked the scooters by the door while they went into the store, but when they came out one was not where they had left it.  Michaela spotted it first, in the parking lot, and went to get it. As she bent over to pick it up, a man jumped out of the car parked next to it, and grabbed her from behind. Michaela screamed and her friend, Trina, turned to see the kidnapper throw Michaela into his car, and take off with her.

 

Michaela Garecht

Michaela Garecht

The police were called and responded immediately. By the time I found out what had happened, they were already looking for her, and I had no doubt with the quick response time and with the eyewitness description, she would be found quickly. But she wasn’t. Despite the efforts of the police, the media, and the huge and heartwarming outpouring of love and support by the community, she was not found quickly. She was not found at all.

 

After Michaela was kidnapped, I was tortured with thoughts of what she might be enduring right that minute. But I thought about those poor parents who had lost their children to illness or accident, and thought maybe I had it easier because in the very worst times I had that hope to carry me through, the hope that my daughter would come home safely. Every time a police car pulled up in front of my house I would run to the window, expecting to see Michaela sitting in the back seat. I would stand at my front door and gaze down the street where I’d watched her disappear from sight, hoping to see her little blonde head bobbing towards home.

 

But a year passed then two years, five years, ten, twenty, and now twenty-five. I discovered that hope is not always a brightly colored helium balloon that helps keep your spirits up. Sometimes it is dark and filled with lead, a weight that drags on you with every step you take, making you so weary you just don’t think you can go on. But you do. You have to,, because your child, who would now be an adult, your child who now would be just a little older than you were when you lost her, is still missing.

 

After a while, there is not much more that can be done, but you keep doing it anyway. For me, buoyed by the hope presented by other long-missing children having been found, I reach out to my daughter herself. I keep a BLOG in which I write to her, and even provide maps to help her get to embassies in other countries where she might be. I continue to talk to the media whenever asked, not because I want to, but because I continue to hope that perhaps Michaela will see it someday, somewhere.

 

Not many, but some people have criticized me for not being realistic, for not recognizing that after more than 25 years chances are Michaela is not alive. I do recognize that. But if I continue to knock myself silly looking for her and she is not alive, no harm is done to anyone but myself. On the other hand, if she is still alive, she may be suffering, and she needs me to keep looking for her. So that is what I do, and what I will continue to do, to look for my missing child, until the day she is found.

 

The Long & Winding Road To Recovery

Polly Klaas

Polly Klaas

The past two years have offered much opportunity for personal reflection. 2013 was the 20th anniversary of Polly’s tragedy, which I wrote about in the last edition of the KlaasKids Foundation newsletter Klaas Action Review. The year 2014 now marks 20 years since the founding of the KlaasKids Foundation. Earlier this year I penned an open letter to Polly on her birthday, reminiscing about that horrible experience two decades ago, and I blogged about being honored by the president of the United States as I battled debilitating grief.

 

This is the first post in a four-part series on the theme of reflection as three other parents, all friends of mine, who lost their children have generously offered to share their stories. Only one has been reunited with their child.

Michaela Garecht

Michaela Garecht

Nine-year-old Michaela Garecht was kidnapped in front of witnesses from a supermarket parking lot in Hayward, California, on November 19, 1988, and hasn’t been seen since. Tomorrow, her mother Sharon Murch, who continues to search for her precious daughter, shares her story with a focus on the endurance of hope and the therapeutic value of writing: How it has helped her to reconcile emotions and define her feelings.

Andrea Brewer

Andrea Brewer

On Friday Rebecca Petty will share a remarkable tale of triumph over tragedy. On May 15, 19999, 12-year-old Andi Brewer was kidnapped, raped, and murdered. Three days later, Karl Roberts led the FBI to her remains. Andi’s mother, Rebecca Petty rose from the ashes of despair and recently graduated from Arkansas Tech University with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. She is currently pursuing her vision of ensuring that children grow up safe by running for the Arkansas House of Representatives.

Nathan Slinkard

Nathan Slinkard

Next Monday Steven Slinkard, who was recently reunited with his son Nathan after nearly two decades will share his story. Steven was completely unprepared when his ex-wife failed to return his three children after a court-ordered visitation and then disappeared in October 1995. He spent the next 18-years afraid that he might never see his kids again. Yet that did not stop him from reaching out through his own pain, doubt, and uncertainty to help others in a similar situation. Steven shares the elation he experienced just recently, on February 4, 2014, when he was finally reunited with a son he hadn’t seen on almost 20-years.

 

I thank Sharon, Rebecca, and Steven for sharing their stories. For all of them, it would have been much easier to reject my request. Introspection is difficult at the best of times, but when done in the context of a dead or missing child, the challenges can become debilitating. However, as Sharon Murch says, the redemptive qualities of writing can also be profoundly therapeutic. Their generosity affords us a glimpse into the range of feelings and emotions that can span decades in a parent’s quest for answers.