Who stood with us?

Early this morning, my phone was blowing up. Text after text from various friends.

“The abductor was probably at the vigil. Our vigil.”

That’s the kind of text that makes you jump out of your chair. And that’s exactly what I did.

Various news sources are reporting that authorities believe Mollie Tibbetts is alive but being held against her will. Authorities also believe the person of interest helped with the initial search…traveled to Waterloo for the vigil…even surrounded him/herself with Mollie’s friends and families.

Before our vigil started, I remember these chilling words being shared with me from several law enforcement officials: “Lyric & Elizabeth’s killer could be here. They like this attention. They always come back to things like this.”

I have always heard things like that throughout my career as a journalist. At every search, vigil or press conference…”the person responsible is probably here.” It’s like the adage “keep your friends close, your enemies closer.”

The night of the vigil I remember scanning the crowd over and over….wondering if the monster who brutally murdered those two sweet girls was there and holding a candle.

I wondered if the person who knows what happened to Jake Wilson was there.

The thought of all of it makes me sick.

We stood and sang “Amazing Grace.”

We locked arms with one another vowing that we would bring back the village.

Did we do all of that when we were surrounded by evil? Who stood with us? Who prayed with us?

It angers me.

The thought that somebody who could be responsible for something heinous joined us in the crowd…is terrifying.

The thought that children are VANISHING…is alarming.

The fact that SO many people are missing and we are expected to relax because state officials tell us it’s “normal”…is ludicrous.

We cannot settle for what is happening.

We need to be known as the state that KEEPS KIDS SAFE.

Not the state that has headlines around the world asking: “What’s happening in Iowa?”

We need to bring our children HOME.

ALL OF OUR CHILDREN.

And it’s time we start DEMANDING justice for the children who will never be coming home.

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Signs.

I believe in God…so I pray to Him often.

I believe in the angels and saints…so I pray to them often.

I believe that our loved ones who have passed away watch over us…so I pray to them often as well.

About four years ago, my husband and I tried for baby #3. I got pregnant…but soon after finding out, we learned it was a chemical pregnancy. We tried a few more times…and nothing.

I remember shouting out to my grandmother who passed away earlier that year, “Grandma! If this is meant to be…put in a good word for me!” I told my husband that I was going to give it all to God…and my grandmother.

You see – she was a fiery little Italian who took zero crap from anyone. Zero. She loved you fiercely but she would tell you exactly what was on her mind. I got quite a few handwritten letters from my grandmother over the years when she was “disappointed” in me. She was a devout Catholic who always told us the importance and POWER of prayer.  When she passed away, everything seemed to change. Our rock was gone and it left a hole in all of our hearts.

Several months passed and it was the anniversary of my grandmother’s death. It had been one year. The day was dreary and I crumbled. I could not stop crying…and it was the ugly cry. The one where I can’t catch my breath and I have red blotches all over my face. I didn’t feel right at all so I went in to see my doctor. I went through my emotions with her while they were drawing blood.

“Amanda…I think you got a message from heaven today. You are pregnant.”

I lost it. I knew this was a gift from my grandmother.

That little girl, turns 3 today and she reminds me exactly of my grandmother. From the moment she entered this world at 10 pounds and seven ounces she has kept me on my toes. She is fiery…hilarious…and takes zero crap from anyone.

My grandmother’s name is Grace. My daughter’s name is Luciana Grace.

She was sent to remind me that my grandmother will always be with me.

Signs…messages…divine intervention…it’s all around us.

We just have to open our hearts and let it all in.

 

TRIBE.

My tribe.

You often hear those two words when women are describing their friends.

I have always liked the description because it means we are surrounded by women who will fight for us…be our advocate…be loyal no matter what. Our ride-or-die kind of friends.

I am blessed with an amazing tribe.

But I learned over the weekend that sometimes your tribe consists of people who you don’t even know.

A friend of mine sent me a screenshot of a social media post. A woman, I didn’t know and who doesn’t know me, was going off about me. I’m not going to go into what she posted…just trust me, she is not a fan of me 😉

I have to admit – I didn’t even focus on what that woman was saying about me…it was the comments below hers that caught my eye. Several women, who I don’t know, were defending me.

Several women, who don’t know me personally, were basically telling this other woman with the hateful & judgmental words to take a seat.

It was refreshing. It was comforting. It reminded me that womanhood is one giant TRIBE.

We, as women, can be the worst can’t we? We’re always cutting other women down. We can be judgmental…catty…petty…undermining…jealous and everything in between.

I don’t know about you…but I don’t need my flaws pointed out all of the time. Especially on social media. I am well aware I am made ENTIRELY of flaws. But guess what? Like other women, I am stitched back together with good intentions.

To the women who had my back over the weekend: THANK YOU.

It’s refreshing to know we can have a tribe of women who look after us…even when they don’t know us.

It’s time we all leave the junior high lunch table.

 

The other side…

I need to share some words from women who have been under attack on social media the past couple of days.

These women are Mama Bears. If you’re a mom…then you are probably just like them…you will protect your children with every fiber in your body.

These women also protect the children around them. And if you would read the detailed police reports of the sick stuff that happens to children around here…you would too.

This is in response to the “Cookie story” that’s popping up in newspapers and other media all over.

When I first read the headline, I admit, my first thought was “well that’s awful! Why would anyone want to stop a little girl from selling cookies?”

My first thought was wrong.

Their voices have been drowned out and ignored…and they’re getting destroyed on social media.  We can all have opinions…but why it has to get to a nasty level I will never know. As someone who has been on the receiving end of some hateful BS and bullying on social media…I felt compelled to take a stand for them.

Neighbor 1:

“We live in a great neighborhood but it has become a circus because the Courier printed a story that was false. This was never about a girl selling cookies. It was about keeping our children safe. That girl sat alone for hours a day on a busy corner to sell these cookies. She’s 10! Strange men approached my child to ask where the cookie girl lived? I draw the line. My friend Melissa was being a mama bear and her child almost got hit! No one would ever call 911 on a child selling cookies! I have lost sleep over this. Please stop sharing the story. It simply isn’t true. You got a fraction of a story that was twisted to make us look like terrible people.
I hope she has a ton of success with her cookie business. The reality is we live in a sick world and we can’t even find a college student right now or a teenage boy. I have to let this go but I just hope people can see the big picture here. I will always be a Mother first and a voice for our children!”

Neighbor 2:

“I was approached by a reporter asking about the 10 year old girl selling cookies on the intersection of Union Road and Paddington just hours after my daughter was nearly hit in my driveway. Had I known the headline that the Courier was planning to create, I would have rethought my willingness to comment on record. This reporter took my statement, in addition to the information they received regarding several other calls made to police about the safety and welfare of this child and others in the area. To spin the story in a way that sends the message that a neighborhood banned together to crush this little girl’s dreams, is so sad and misleading. Our neighborhood supported her efforts from the beginning and only wanted her and the other children in the neighborhood to be safe. Even if it wasn’t the intent, the moment that it was clear the story had taken a turn towards reflecting that message, it should have been addressed. It was irresponsible reporting and has resulted in unfounded threats to people and property in retaliation against a neighborhood and specific people that were only looking out for the safety of the children that live there, Savanah included. My concern for child safety made me the villain and sends a really bad message in world where we are told ‘if you see something report it’.”

I know things like this can be a “draw your own conclusion” type of deal.

But from everything I have seen it’s this:

A community wants to back a young girl’s dream and business…that same community also wants to make sure she is safe.

When it comes to making sure children are safe…every child is our child.

The list.

“Most of these are runaways. They chose to leave.”

I have read comments like this one over and over ever since “the list” was posted. You probably remember “the list.” 40 missing Iowans in 10 days.

We have been told the numbers are normal. We have been told the numbers are steady.

I’m sorry but I don’t want to accept that a list this long is normal.

I don’t want to accept that two young people 50 miles apart vanished.

I don’t want to accept that dozens and dozens of children are running away from home.

I don’t want to accept that dozens and dozens of children are repeatedly running away from home.

I don’t want to accept that kids as young as 14-years-old are classified as people who “chose to leave.”

They are children.

If kids are running away then they are clearly screaming for help.

If kids are running away multiple times, then there’s a good chance they’re not in a happy, healthy or safe environment at home.

I want to live in a world where we say “this list is unacceptable…how can we change it? How can we make sure our kids are safe? How can we make sure every child has a happy, healthy and safe home?”

There is nothing normal about dozens and dozens of children out on the street somewhere. They’re at an insanely high risk of falling victim to a sinister crime.

Let’s come together and bring these children home.

All of the children.

They all matter.

The rant.

Let me preface by saying this: I have written a blog for nearly 10 years now. Over that span of time, I have written things that some people love…things that people hate…I have even been threatened with a lawsuit a few times.

I don’t write so people will carry me on their shoulders through a ticker-tape parade…I don’t write to aggravate people to the brink where they show up with torches and pitch forks. I write so I can say what I feel needs to be said. It’s not always right…it’s not always wrong…but I can assure you it is REAL without any buffering.

This blog entry is no different.

If you follow my FB page then you know I post often about Jake Wilson who has been missing for more than 100 days. Mollie Tibbett has been missing for a week. Kaiden Estling was riding his moped when he was hit and killed. The person who hit him…left him for dead…and took off. Lyric Cook and Elizabeth Collins were abducted and murdered. Their killer has STILL not been caught.

I have repeated the above information several times.

Last night I was stunned when I read comments that said things like this:

“Stop spreading fear. Cases like this have been around for years. This is nothing new.”

ARE. YOU. KIDDING. ME.

Look I could handle when people would comment about my post-baby figure or “clown” makeup with “floozy red lipstick” because that is all superficial crap. But comments like the one above…nope. Not today…not ever.

Spreading fear?

I am sorry that it scares me that two people very close to home VANISHED without a trace. Without a clue.

I am sorry that it scares me that Jake Wilson has been gone for more than 100 days and his name and picture have fallen from the headlines.

I am sorry that it scares me that a young man went for a ride on his moped and a driver slammed into him so hard that it killed him. And rather than trying to save Kaiden’s life…that driver took off leaving the teenager to die.

I am sorry that it scares me that two young girls were MURDERED and the person behind it is STILL OUT THERE.

I am sorry that is scares me that I find myself wondering “is this the new normal?”

I am sorry that it scares me that there are people who accept the fact that cases like these are nothing new.

That is unacceptable to me.

Children should not vanish.

Children should not be murdered.

Children should not be left to die.

We do everything we can to protect our children. We do everything we can to protect our neighbor’s children. We do everything we can to protect children in the next town. And if God forbid evil comes and takes one of our children…we do everything we can to bring them back home.

We don’t sit at home and criticize people from our phones who are trying to be a voice for children. We don’t accept that this is “nothing new.”

This is not about scaring people or living in fear.

There are children missing.

There are children who have been killed.

And we don’t know who is behind it all.

That is REAL.

And if it’s fear that is my driving force to protect my children and yours…then SO BE IT.

No words.

“Can my kids play in the backyard? Can my kids ride their bikes down the street and back?  Can my oldest daughter go to the pool by herself?  Can my kids chase down the ice cream truck?  Can my kids go to the park?  Can I go for a run outside? Can I go for a bike ride by myself? What the he** is going on??”

Welcome to inside my brain.

I was up until 4:47am to be exact asking myself these questions over and over again.

I saw Jake’s face.

I saw Mollie’s face.

I saw Elizabeth’s face.

I saw Lyric’s face.

Two children are gone forever.

One went for a walk and hasn’t been seen for more than 100 days.

One for a jog and vanished almost a week ago.

We will share their pictures on social media…

We will say their names…

But we know what will happen next: the story will disappear from the headlines…and eventually fall off the radar.

They’ll be referred to as “those cousins from Evansdale…that boy from La Porte City…that college girl from near Des Moines.” You know it’s true.

We have to do better.

We have to demand better.

We have to figure out what the he** is going on. Seriously.

As a mom, I am living in fear…fear that it will happen to us.

And it’s making me crazy.

The other day my son was playing in the backyard. When I looked out the kitchen window, I couldn’t see him. I immediately started to hyperventilate. I ran out the back door and there he was…rolling around in the grass.

Wow. Breathe.

I am rambling right now because I honestly have no idea what to say or what to think.

But here we are again…Iowa is the top of the headlines because one of our children is missing.

Again.

Can we bring back the neighborhoods where everyone is watching out for EVERYONE?

Can we bring back HARDCORE Neighborhood Watch groups?

Can we go back to the days where every porch light is on so the entire street is lit up?

Can we DO SOMETHING??

Our number one priority as a community needs to be keeping our children safe.

There are far too many children who are not safe right now…

And it keeps getting closer and closer to home.