On Thursday, January 26, 2017, Fillmore County Journal Assistant Editor attended the Minnesota Newspaper Association Conference in Bloomington, Minn.
While at the conference, Ellen Whalen listened to presentations from Pulitzer Prize winners from the newspaper industry, along with a presentation relating to editorial content management and audience engagement.
On Friday, January 27, 2017, Fillmore County Journal Website Administrator Michelle Haugerud and myself drove up to the conference to attend the lunch meeting and presentation. The guest speakers were Jacob Wetterling’s parents Jerry and Patty Wetterling.
In a banquet hall with roughly 500 representatives from newspapers throughout all 87 counties in the state of Minnesota, the Wetterling couple shared their story.
Patty opened with, “I do love what you do, as the print media allowed us to talk from our hearts.”
She talked about how the local newspapers such as the Paynesville Press and the St. Cloud Times covered every event relating to Jacob’s disappearance, and even recognized his birthdays and anniversaries of his disappearance over the course of 27 years before his body was found. “We have been blessed with attention of accuracy and sensitivity,” shared Patty. “One of your challenges today is the speed with which you are expected to get news out,” commented Patty.
Patty shared stories about how people held onto newspaper clippings about Jacob, “Many people keep your media on their fridge.” She talked about how people would send curled pictures to Jerry and Patty, letting them know that they were thinking of Jacob.
Over the past 27 years, while Jerry has been managing his chiropractic business, Patty has been giving presentations to law enforcement departments and community child protection advocacy groups all over the nation — never losing hope that they would find Jacob.
And, then Jerry and Patty shared the heartbreaking details about when they found out that Jacob’s abductor could lead them to his body. They talked about the investigation that lead to the suspect Danny Heinrich.
Jerry and Patty said that the Paynesville Press archives ultimately helped solve their case.
“We had been stunned and numb as time went on,” said Patty.
In a tear-filled room, Patty explained, “Part of my silence is trying to figure out what do I do.” Once Jacob’s body was found and put to rest, she wasn’t sure what to do next. Should she continue on this journey of giving presentations as she has done for one-third of her life?
On September 7, 2016, according to KMSP-TV, “The Jacob Wetterling Resource Center announced a way to honor Jacob Wetterling. The JWRC says it was approached by a children’s soccer team who wanted to wear Jacob’s jersey number, 11, in their next soccer game. JWRC talked with Patty Wetterling and came up with an idea for people to add ‘11’ somewhere at their next game, concert, or big event to show they’re committed to making the world a better place for kids.
The JWRC says 11 for Jacob is 11 things that people of all ages can do to nurture a culture of kindness and compassion and if you put on Jacob’s jersey number, make a commitment to living with these 11 traits:”
1. Be Fair
2. Be Kind
3. Be Understanding
4. Be Honest
5. Be Thankful
6. Be a Good Sport
7. Be a Good Friend
8. Be Joyful
9. Be Generous
10. Be Gentle with others
11. Be Positive
Patty shared how she was so grateful for how people near and far who felt close to their story honored Jacob with displaying the number 11. There were Minnesota high school soccer and volleyball teams, and even professional Minnesota sports teams wearing Jacob’s number 11.
She gave a recent example of a presentation she made in Springfield, Ill., in which their was a sign made out of band aids that said “Be gentle with others”, which was trait 10.
Everywhere Jerry and Patty go they are reminded of Jacob even though he’s been physically absent from their lives for over 27 years.
Jerry and Patty Wetterling have faced a devastating loss that hopefully most parents will never have to experience in their lifetime. But, they have appreciated the support and concern of everyone who has followed Jacob’s story from the day he disappeared on October 22, 1989.