Wednesday marks the 25th anniversary of the abduction of Jacob Wetterling.
In the intervening quarter-century, Jacob's mother has become known as a tireless advocate for the cause of finding those who are reported missing.
But Patty Wetterling tells the St. Cloud Times she knows the disappearance of her 11-year-old son in 1989 had an impact that went far beyond the family, citing the effect on Jacob's sixth-grade classmates in St. Joseph. "It changed their lives, completely," she says. "Clearly, we were the center of the storm. But the victims were all over."
The Times spoke with one of those former classmates, Alison Feigh, who remembers seeing a sapling planted in St. Cloud the following spring and dedicated to Jacob and other missing children. The ash tree is now about 30 feet tall and Feigh is currently the program manager of the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center.
The Center works to educate families with safety information to help prevent the exploitation of children. It also maintains a web page featuring some of the many people currently listed as missing in the U.S.
As WCCO reports, Patty Wetterling spoke Monday at an event called the Squeaky Wheel Tour, which stopped in Minneapolis as part of an effort that uses music to raise awareness of those who are missing.
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The Squeaky Wheel Tour was inspired by the disappearance of Gina Bos on October 17, 2000.
KARE 11 reports Bos was a musician who was last seen leaving an open mic night in Lincoln, Nebraska. Bos' sister, Jannel Rap organized the Squeaky Wheel Tour as a way to shed light on the missing, including Jacob Wetterling.
While Patter Wetterling has spent plenty of time in front of cameras since Jacob's abduction, including a Congressional campaign, her husband Jerry has been more private.
But Jerry Wetterling showed the Star Tribune the walk that he takes twice a week – tracing the route that Jacob took on the evening he was last seen, and ending at a rock where he takes a moment to "put out some extra Jacob vibes."
On October 22, 1989, Jacob was with his younger brother, Trevor, and friend Aaron Larson when they rode their bikes to a convenience store to rent a video. On their way home a gunman confronted them, ordering them to lay face-down in a ditch. He ordered Trevor and Aaron to run off into the woods without looking back.
Aaron Larson tells FOX 9 that night not only left him with unanswered questions and guilt, it shaped his identity. "How come he took Jacob? How come it wasn't me? It's something you live with," he says.
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The Jacob Wetterling Resource Center is asking people to do something on Oct. 22 to create hope and light in the world in honor of Jacob.