Heartache in the Heartland
p>In the fall of 2006, Jesse Opie Ross travelled to Chicago, from his home in Belton, Missouri. He was a 19-year-old college student attending a Model UN conference with classmates from the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC). On the afternoon of November 21, his parents received a call from one of his sponsors saying Jesse was nowhere to be found. He had literally vanished. Jesse hasn’t been seen since—by anybody. More than six years later, Jesse’s parents spend their days hoping Chicago police will more actively pursue Jesse’s disappearance. Jesse’s father, Donald Ross, has written two books about Jesse and his family, about the never-ending frustration and anguish they live with every single day. Below are edited excerpts from his latest, Where’s Opie? Life Goes On.
March 16, 2012. I sit on the front porch in the serenity of the early evening. It’s a little cool and cloudy, still some sunshine. The magnolia in the front yard is covered with pink blossoms. It’s an amazing day for March in Missouri (that’s “Misura,” according to my sources). I haven’t done this for a while, just admire the quiet.
In the past, I sat out here, hoping, waiting, looking down the road for the car that would pull up, and Jesse would get out. I don’t look for that car so much anymore, but I still cannot resist the impulse when I sit out here amid so much peace and contentment. Right now I would wish that contentment for all those who are driven, those who seek peace of mind. Surely heaven can’t be too much different than this.
I think the Bible tries to tell us that this state of mind is attainable for all; but I think it goes against human nature to find such simplicity. We just can’t seem to help worrying and scheming. We seek what will make us happy, instead of being happy and accepting that God is in control and no matter how bad it seems, it will all come out in the wash. I guess we must take what happiness there is and muddle through the rest. We do seem to muddle well.
July 4, 2012. We got a response from a Chicago detective about all my emails. He had a lot to say about what he’s trying to accomplish. I think he still doesn’t grasp that the five years wasted by his colleagues won’t just go away, and we’re not going to be placated by words. We need results.
We want our son home. We want you to do your investigation and not rely on the woefully inadequate work of your predecessors. We want you to open new doors. And don’t ask us what to do, we are the parents. You are the professional. We had the ‘can’t do’ guys for five years; we don’t need another. Be the ‘can do’ guy or get out of the way and let someone else do it. You just started on this case, but we have been here full term so don’t try to snow us. We have heard all the excuses.
August 19, 2012. Our detective tells us he is contacting UMKC police here in Kansas City and requesting names of those who were with Jesse in Chicago. I think our private investigator has been talking with him on Facebook and trying to generate some goodwill. He’s going to write letters to those persons involved and see if they will contribute to the investigation. It isn’t a lot to hold on to, but it’s so much more than we’ve had so far.
September 9, 2012. We got an email from the detective on Jesse’s case. He contacted Jesse’s school and they’ll be running an article on Jesse for a number of months; they will ask alum to contact police or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children with any information they may have. This may not help but it is something, and more than the previous detectives did for us.
I’m starting up my postcard campaign to the mayor’s office again. They surely don’t think I’m going to just sit back for another five years and let them make excuses.
November 14, 2012. I wake up slowly, the room envelopes me in its warm embrace. The sunlight coming through the shades is a soft warm glow. I turn over and I see Donna, sitting on the floor, so beautiful in the early morning light. She is talking quietly with Andy. And with Jesse.
Andy is maybe 8, Jesse is 5 or so. The diffused light softens the angles and lines of their faces. I just lie there and think how lucky I am to have this great little family.
Then somewhere in my chest, I feel this tightness. The warm glow starts to fade; I become aware that this is not reality. Andy is not 8, and Jesse is not here. The picture in my mind is so real but it’s fading. I study Jesse’s face trying to hold onto the details, as everything fades to dark and I awake, unsure if I have been blessed or cursed.
Hopefully this is a taste of a time to come. I guess I should be grateful; this is probably more than some people get. I am one of those lucky people who dreams in color, so the sunlight is golden and the images are so real.
Donald Ross can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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