August 4th is always a hard day for me every year, as it marks the beginning of the worst nightmare that I have ever experienced.  6 years ago today, a young woman disappeared and as we later learned ultimately lost her life.  Though I never knew her personally – her missing person and homicide cases have changed my life forever.

I still can’t explain the emotions that I feel towards that period of time in my life.  I still feel incredible amounts of grief even though I had nothing to do with her death.  Since the arrest of the young man that was convicted in her killing I have never been able to trust anyone fully, and I no longer see my world through rose-colored glasses.  I still see the good in most, but recognize that even the good can be evil in the appropriate situation.

As much as this awful story has impacted my psyche I cannot imagine what it has done to this young woman’s family.  When I remember to pray – I pray for them.  No family deserves to go through what they had to endure during the investigation and trial.  I know they will probably never have peace, but I pray that somehow someday life will be ok for them.  I want them to know that through it all I have never lost compassion for them.  Even when I felt the pressure of helicoptors following me home, and investigators who were pulling me out of school to ask me the most private questions… I never lost compassion for them.  They needed answers as to where she was, and if that is what they felt was right in order to find the answers, then it is ok that I went through it.  After all, the pain and loss that I’ve withstood is nothing compared to the person that they lost.

Please don’t feel sorry for me though… really, I’m fine.  Its still a painful process for me, and admitting these sad facts some how makes me feel stronger in a way.  As much as it hurts, I don’t have to let the pain control me and my future, and so I’m trying to work through it all so that it doesn’t.  I have to admit… I never imagined it would take this long.  6 years is a really really really long time, and I’m not close to being over it.  I’ve accepted some facts, but there’s so much damage that needs to be assessed and fixed.  I guess it takes a lot more time than that.

The moral of my story is this… I don’t want sympathy or empathy, but I do want you to hug your loved ones a little closer at night.  I want you to cherish the relationships that you have, and love the ones you’re with because it can literally take an instant to lose someone forever.  It sounds cliche to say, “give it all every day, because you never know when your last day will be,” but its the honest to God truth.  Love hard, live hard, and remember that you can never tell someone that you love & care about them too much.  Please pray for the families with missing loved ones because you cannot even imagine the anguish they face on a daily basis.

And to Heather – I hope you’re resting in peace, and I hope that you know your death was not in vain.

August 4, 2003 – I will not forget.