It has been a difficult day today.
Wednesday, an 8 year old girl that went to school at my son’s elementary school in Mitchell, Nebraska was reported missing. This morning, her body was found on a ranch in the neighboring county and her stepfather was charged with first degree murder and child molestation. Children go missing every day all over the world and awful things like this happen all the time, but it really hurts when it happens so close to home and you have to bear witness to the pain and suffering of a family and an entire community.
This morning, I stopped by the school to check on my son, as they were bringing in counselors for the kids and the staff. I held hands and shared a few tears with Irene Shields, the lady at the office who had been there when I was going to the same school 30 something years ago. The staff at the school has been under the gun for the last two days and they are taking the loss very hard. It was very unpleasant to try and explain this kind of a situation to my seven-year-old son. This is an awful situation, all the way around.
The silver lining in all of this is to see our small town community come together to get through the pain. Every door in Mitchell was knocked on yesterday and there were groups of people searching day and night for the last two days. We found out how dedicated to our children the school staff is, as they stayed at work until the wee hours of the morning dealing with a difficult and painful situation – and facing criticism from people unaware of the situation who thought that they had lost a child. Turns out that she had never been dropped off for school and they were able to provide the video evidence and eyewitness accounts to prove it, which helped to make the case against the stepfather.
I hate that my hometown will now have this tragedy attached to it, but I am very proud of the way our community has responded and the way our educators and law enforcement staff dealt with the situation. It has been a perfect illustration of all of the good things about small town life. I am really glad to be in a position where I can live in this place and provide a valuable service for the community.
If you have children or grandchildren, hug them or call them or just think about them for a few minutes. A loss like this is a big eye opener.