It was a summer of conflicting emotions and fast paced events.
When I first met the Le family they seemed isolated, desperate, and hopeless. Their precious Michelle had disappeared. The Hayward police said that she was a victim of murder, yet she was nowhere to be found. Ultimately, the family led by brother Michael, cousin Krystine, and uncle Eric rejected that premise and promised to spare no resource in rescuing or recovering Michelle.
What began in isolation quickly morphed into collaboration: first with KlaasKids and law enforcement; ultimately with the Buddhist Temple, Safeway, Websleuths, countless local vendors, media representatives and a dedicated cadre of volunteers. One might wonder what drove these diverse groups and individuals to reach out to this family that had gathered in solidarity from all over California and whom most of us had only just met.
Was it their refusal to go quietly into the night? Was it their willingness to unblinkingly look the devil in the eye? Or, was it the face of a seemingly lost soul smiling angelically from missing flyers on telephone poles, storefronts, and media reports. Perhaps it was all of these things, but maybe it was something even more. Maybe, just maybe we were nurtured by the grace of angels.
Events were scheduled and searches were organized. Michelle’s family found strength in fellowship and resolve in the solidarity of purpose. Timelines were established, evidence was analyzed, and strategies were devised. Search teams were dispatched, time and time again, with little regard for personal comfort as a larger purpose drove us all. We looked and looked and looked yet again, but try as we might the angelic face that smiled from billboards and late night dreams continued to elude our grasp. But it mattered not, for we had climbed onto the wings of angels as the bright light of informed choice overwhelmed the darkness of despair.
Searches continued and an arrest was made. The Hayward PD provided us with new information, fueling hope, but the truth continued to elude our grasp. And then, seemingly, another angelic intervention. On the last afternoon of the last scheduled search for Michelle, a dog with the namesake of another stolen child owned by the mother of that child, led us to a tragic conclusion. The search for Michelle was over. She can now be put to rest with the dignity and respect that all good people deserve.
It is now autumn, and soon the leaves will be falling from the trees.
Son, my heart breaks for you, because I understand the agony of losing a child to the forces of evil. However, I am here to tell you that time will give you the gift of being able to recover a life of purpose, meaning and love. Eric, your leadership and intelligence positioned you perfectly as an interim Incident Search Commander. I would follow you anywhere. Michael, when we met you were a boy, but today you view the world through the eyes of a man who has experienced more than his youth would suggest. And Krystine, you put a promising career on hold to hold onto a promise you made to your beloved cousin, and you can always take solace in the knowledge that it was a promise kept, though not as you would have wished.
The experiences that you have recently suffered have the ability to sharpen your focus and make you stronger, better people than you otherwise might have been, because now you are guided by the spirit of angels.
You might ask how I know these things to be true. The answer is simple: the angle on my shoulder has told me that the angel we were seeking was guiding us all along.