Nov. 24, 1989
Letters, friends, hope fill Wetterling home
(It has been one month since Jacob Wetterling was abducted from a rural St. Joseph neighborhood, and there are still no solid clues to his whereabouts. The search continues, however, and few people are giving up hope. The Wetterling family is especially hopeful and is working full-time at their Kiwi Court home to spearhead the movement to bring Jacob back. The following comments are excerpts from a recent interview with the Wetterlings conducted by Newsleader Associate Editor Stuart Goldschen. Patty and Jerry Wetterling spoke at length about their backgrounds, their daily lives, their feelings, the network of support they are receiving, their steadfast hope for the return of their son, and Jacob.)
by Stuart Goldschen
Jacob values friends, teamwork
Patty: Jacob is a very good student, and he’s creative and good at art. He just started playing the trombone – he called it the bone – and would practice and try to come up with his own songs.
He loves to fish and play football and has an incredible memory. He can remember exactly what day it was he learned to ride his bike.
He’s not good, however, at doing homework, and he procrastinates really badly. He’s good at delegating other people to do things for him, and, although he’s willing to help, he really likes to be waited on.
He makes friends real easily and is well-liked by people. One of his friends said he likes people for who they are, not for what they look like or for what they have. He’s a real genuine person and has an incredible sense of fairness.
Jerry: In sports he’s definitely a team player. He feels good if he can score a goal in soccer, but he also likes to be part of a cooperative effort to score.
He’s also good with animals and at one time talked of being a veterinarian. (The Wetterlings have two dogs and two birds.)
50-100 pieces of mail daily
Patty: We get between 50 and 100 pieces of mail daily, not including the poetry, posters and school mail. It’s mostly letters, prayers, dreams, gifts of hope and sometimes people’s stories of their own losses or stories of hope.
At first I didn’t want to face the mail. I was afraid. Then when I started reading them, from all over the country, I found they were really hope-giving and inspiring.
The mail is important to us, but it’s impossible to keep up with it on a day-to-day basis. We have people helping us open it, and I do intend to read everything, but I can’t get through each piece each day.
Our immediate concern when the mail comes is just to open it and look for a note, money or anything that might be a clue.
The other day there were three notes (from despondent people) saying, “I had given up, there was no point in living, but your story has given me hope and a reason to live.”
That scares me. We’re just a family looking for our son. I don’t want to be put on any pedestal. It’s a precarious position to be in when people say my strength has given them strength. I want to be just who I am. Don’t make me bigger than life.
‘I’ll talk to anyone’
Patty: I don’t have any problem talking to people. It gives me something to do. As a matter of fact, if people weren’t here I’d probably still be talking. I don’t want to shut out the world. That’s where Jacob is. He’s out there.
I’ll talk to anyone. I’m talking all day. All I do is talk. It’s like being driven. You’ll do anything.
It’s a totally helpless position to be in. Jacob’s gone, and there’s very little we can physically do. We can’t be searching the world single-handedly. All we can do is appeal to everyone else to help in our search.
It’s sort of like being a leader or director of a camp. You get everybody to look in their little areas. The way we do that is to talk to people.
Daily life now
Patty: We get letters and phone calls, and we talk a lot and sing. It feels like we’re getting all this strength, and I want to send out strength to Jacob so he’ll feel surrounded and comforted.
The days and nights mix. I don’t count days. Every day is different.
Usually we talk to the FBI. Sometimes they give us an assignment: “Do you have a picture of this or that?” “Can you find this address?”
We never felt it was someone we knew (who abducted Jacob), but they (FBI) don’t know. Their job is different, and they have to look at everything. Almost every friend and relative we have has been questioned by the FBI.
We never pointed the finger at anyone. We’re just asking for people’s patience and cooperation throughout this difficult process.
Search nets 12,000 information bits
Patty: The investigators call daily, but they don’t tell us every time they have something hot because it’s too up and down. They tell us they have a lot of information and that they still feel confident. They have more than 12,000 pieces of data in their computers.
I have confidence in them, and I appreciate their efforts. I know they work long days, and I know the energy is there.
I believe somebody out there knows (something about Jacob), and that either they will tell what they know or they have told what they know already and it hasn’t fit together with all the other pieces yet.
I don’t believe you can do something this major without someone knowing or seeing something.
Media keeps story alive
Patty: There’s a whole lot going on that we’ve organized, but nobody, nobody, has given us professional advice on keeping the story alive. Our goal is to get Jacob’s face and Jacob’s story everywhere so whoever has him is immobilized and can’t move without someone knowing. We need everybody’s help, and I think they help because it has simply touched their hearts.
We have been told by the police and the FBI that the media has been very helpful, and they’ve even helped keep the media here. They know the important role the media plays in the solution to this.
If we can keep Jacob in the consciousness of the American people, not only will he return, but this will not be allowed to happen. This is wrong. It’s wrong in New York. It’s wrong here. Jerry and I would be standing up wherever we were to say it’s wrong.
Kids need to be kids
Patty: Like all parents, you question when your kids are old enough to act on their own. Our belief was that kids were never a problem. They played in the neighborhood. They biked to the Tom Thumb store, but they always let us know if they were going to do that. Otherwise, they were in the area, and were usually in groups.
I pray for the day again when kids can not be fearful and can once again go outside and play and not worry about putting extra locks on doors and being afraid to be children.
The side effects of all this have been a very sad thing. I hope parents don’t share their fear to the degree that kids don’t have that wonderful time in their lives when they feel safe and protected and all is right with the world.
“Religion is NOT the issue”
Patty: Jerry joined the Baha’i faith in 1976, and I was brought up in the United Church of Christ. When I attend church now I go to the First Presbyterian Church, but I’m a member of the Methodist Church. I’ve learned it matters little how you reach God. There is only one.
I don’t believe denominations matter so much as the feel, the spirit, of the church. We’ve become very close to a lot of people who are praying in a lot of different faiths.
But the story is not about religion. There are many stories happening. There’s a story of all the people at the law enforcement center: it’s phenomenal. There’s a story of all the volunteer aspects.
There’s a story about a little boy who cut a picture of Jacob from the newspaper, made a poster, xeroxed it and put it all over his little town.
There’s a story of Jacob and what’s going on for him throughout this whole time, and there’s a story of the children at North Community School. There are so many stories.
The unifying part of how people have come together is a story. All the support form the convent and the colleges. It’s bigger than all of us.
At some point it’s going to pull together, and somebody will make sense out of it.
Jacob’s hope very much alive
Jerry: I wish I had some sort of vision of what was going to happen. It’s unexplored territory as far as we’re concerned. We’re marching through this ordeal on a day-to-day basis.
At this point our daily energies are put into doing everything we think we can do to assist in bringing Jacob back. This is a big country, it’s a big world, and there are a lot of places where he can be.
At this point we feel very good about everything that has happened from the standpoint of law-enforcement coalitions, media support and community support, both local, statewide and beyond in helping in this quest to get Jacob back.
There’s been such incredible, positive energy involved in this case. And that fact encourages us to keep in the direction we have been and to move ahead, acting day by day with the hope he’ll be home soon.
Jacob’s out there. It may take lots of work and lots of time to get him back, but we’re prepared to do whatever it takes.
Jacob’s Hope, by Doug Wood
You can listen to the song on Doug Wood’s Youtube channel, at youtube.com/watch?v=1hLH9DbTnAY.
There’s a child all alone in the world tonight
He was stolen away and we cry for his plight
But he’s not really gone, cause we won’t let him go.
We are Jacob’s hope.
Jacob, can you hear us
We send you our prayers
We send you all our strength and our love
And we’re not giving up til we bring you back home
For we are Jacob’s hope.
There’s a dream that we dream, how the world should be
Where the children sing, where the children are free
But we know if it’s to happen, we must make it so
For we are Jacob’s hope.
Children can you hear us
So we’ll hold them in our hearts and we’ll sing their names
And the grief that burns inside will only feed the flames
And we’ll watch every road, every town, every door
Til the kids are safe once more.
Repeat first verse and chorus