The Roller Coaster Ride in the Search for a Missing Person

4 years ago

It's not unusual for a year to go by with nothing new to report on in our search for my brother Austin. That's true of most of us with a cold case missing person, and it may be one of the hardest parts to accept.  But we've had some activity in the past few weeks, and I wanted to share some of what it's like to go through the roller coaster of 'what if' and 'maybe'.

It's not unusual for a year to go by with nothing new to report on in our search for my brother Austin.  That's true of most of us with a cold case missing person, and it may be one of the hardest parts to accept.  But we've had some activity in the past few weeks, and I wanted to share some of what it's like to go through the roller coaster of 'what if' and 'maybe'.

One of the most respected women in search and rescue, Monica Caison had been encouraging my mom to search one specific area we never had, the property around the house where Austin and I grew up.  Mom was hesitant for her own reasons, and I pushed every now and then to please make it happen.  The plan was for a small group to go, just a few people from her own search team, as it's quite a small area.  Monica helped scout on a Friday, and on that Saturday, four searchers including my mom, began to work.  While they worked, I wrote some thoughts, always praying that when I shared this, I'd be sharing about the day we brought Austin home.  Here's what I wrote as I waited:

"From where I stand... Birds calling, crickets chirping, occasional dog barking, leaves falling, trees towering, sun shining warm,  quiet, peaceful....
As I write, a small search for Austin is underway.  We've had quite a few, so I have a somewhat nonchalant attitude towards them usually. In the beginning, I would always think "today is the day" and be nervous.  As time has gone on, most searches have been repeats of the same areas or areas we didn't feel that strong about.  So I lost that feeling for the most part.  Pulling up to a team of searchers always gave me a moment of belief that today might be the day, and leaving with no results always gave me a bit of a letdown, but less and less over time.

Today is different.  Today it's just 4 people and 3 dogs.  Today my mom is searching instead of organizing.  Today we're home, meaning we're where Austin and I grew up, where I have the most feeling of home and where he did too.  Though we don't own the house or property and haven't for years, we still visit out here because of close family friends who are still here.  When I turn down the road, it still feels like going home.  It's where we made most of our childhood memories, its where we made lifelong friends, its where we were a family.  About halfway through college for me, and halfway through high school for Austin, our parents split and things changed a lot.  Austin still lived there for a few years, and I spent one more summer there, before Dad made the decision to sell.  I don't know if Austin's last few years here tarnished the good memories so much that he didn't still feel the strong connection to it that I do.  I was gone, living an hour away through the worst of that, so I don't have the same viewpoint.

I wasn't convinced that the pull here would be strong enough that he'd come back here for his final moments.  But we've searched everywhere else that seems to make sense."

My kids and husband came and we played baseball and soccer for a few hours while they searched, reminding me how abnormal it is for my kids to think it perfectly normal to play yards away from a search, a search for their own uncle.  My youngest doesn't know, but my oldest is well aware.  A few hours later, the team packed up and left without any find.  It turns out that the area really is too grown up and too dense for that small a team, and some heavy equipment is needed.  I left sad, with that feeling that this wasn't really the place, and knowing it would likely be months before the next search happened, meaning more time of just waiting.  That's the road for a family member though, always having sparks of hope that you have to allow and have to feel, while wanting to instead protect yourself from the letdown that comes after you allow yourself to hope.

Fast forward a week and a half or so....

I was getting ready to walk out the door to work when I realized my husband and mom were talking and there were words like 'serial number' and 'police' floating to me.  I stopped and listened.

My mom had been awakened about 3:30am by a phone call from someone who scavenged for metal, and had found bones in carpet, almost buried in dirt the night before.  He'd called the police and they'd sent uniformed officers, but they hadn't taken him seriously it seemed, and he couldn't sleep.  So he was searching online for information about missing people in that area, and came across Austin's info.  On that was the Finder's Hope logo, and from there he found my mom's phone number- not realizing she was also Austin's mom.  He'd read about the shotgun we were also looking for, and was startled by the fact that he'd found the barrel of a shotgun (same brand) months ago, broken down and half buried, in another nearby spot that we had searched very near to.  The bones were several blocks away, but also between the Pawn Shop (where Austin purchased the gun and was last seen) and where he'd found the gun.  He still had the gun, including the serial number and would be glad to hand it to police. 

........ Read more of 'The Roller Coaster Ride' at Losing Austin, Finding Myself.

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