Losing a child at any age, under any circumstances, is a heart-wrenching thought, and extremely devastating.
But when a child is kidnapped, it's an unimaginable loss.
This has been the reality of the family of Heidi Allen, since Easter of 1994. The family has relived the pain each time a new investigation opened up, or a new lead was followed. They relived the pain each year as a birthday or holiday passed.
Earlier this week, on Sunday, we saw the death of Allen's convicted kidnapper in prison, Gary Thibodeau. Thibodeau was convicted in Allen's kidnapping from a convenience store on Easter Sunday in 1994, and her presumed death. He maintained his innocence through his final days and his death.
In 2014, multiple people came forward alleging three other men had implicated themselves in her kidnapping and presumed death. The family has been quoted this week as saying, "We will never have closure."
Closer to home, the Sauquoit community will never forget, and hearts across the region still ache over the disappearance of Sara Anne Wood. Sunday marks 25 years since Wood, of Sauquoit, disappeared while riding her bike. She was 12 years old.
Wood's legacy will never be forgotten.
While no one can imagine the feelings these families go through, the Center for Missing and Exploited Children works to provide not only resources, but also a sense of fellowship for these families. It offers a place where they can talk with others who are going through what they are going through.
This is on top of the work the center does to put out information on missing children, to educate the community, to train law enforcement in a changing landscape of predators.
Jim White is a team leader at the Center for Missing and Exploited Children. He's worked in the trenches with these families. He's been an active member, and shared stories. He tells us he has a keen eye for when something seems out of place in his day-to-day activity out in the public, and this comes from sharing these families' stories. He understands all to well, how in a blink of an eye, a person can be gone.
He talked with us about Sara Anne Wood's legacy, and said while it's a pain that never goes away for the family, what the Center for Missing and Exploited Children offers, is hope.