Friday, May 6, 2011

One Mother's Journey in Giving and Finding Hope

By: Christy Davis

Mother’s Day... special to me growing up as I learned about unconditional love from my Mom; then when I became a mother taking on the job of shaping new lives. I knew enough to be scared, yet excited at the same time. The best job I’ve ever had has been the job of Mom, one I loved even on the days of tearing out hair wondering “what was I thinking”, believing that I could do this right. Two great kids with personalities on opposite ends of the spectrum, and years between them, but good buddies nonetheless. Mothers day when children are young bring things like breakfast in bed, handmade gifts from school everything from a handprint with poem to clay figurines with initials carved backwards, things that are my most treasured it brings memories of a Child Lost, along with the joy of my daughter.

Austin came to us almost five years after his sister Anita. a very social child, never fearful of making new friends, or talking with adults. We were always told what a charming young man he was and that he’d do well, even as we stressed over grades, homework and responsible behavior. As he grew, he continued to make us proud of the man he was becoming, making the mistakes that we all make, but finding himself and a direction for his life. Austin learned to cook as a young man and was good at it, working at a well known seafood restaurant chain as he studied to be a computer technician. He loved fixing us a favorite dish, or conferring on the best seasonings to use while grilling, or suggesting different ways to cook something; that part of him always surprised me a little, but in the best possible way. Austin’s quiet sweetness is something I miss more than I can ever express, especially the times he’d come to me and say Mom can we talk….and he’d share parts of himself with me.

Austin was 26 years old at the time of his disappearance in June 2007 when he took a taxi ride that ended at Jax Jewelry and Pawn Shop at the intersection of 103rd Street and Blanding Blvd in Jacksonville, FL around 12:30pm. Police have confirmed that Austin bought a shotgun there, and according to the clerk, put the gun in a duffle bag (a few inches of the barrel sticking out) and left the shop on foot which he wouldn’t normally have done as he had chronic pain in both knees and walking distances was difficult. Leads have been followed, many large scale searches conducted, but none have panned out. There has been no access of personal accounts or cell phone use since that day. We also later learned that he never cashed his last paycheck from work. Austin left all personal belongings behind including a laptop and backpack that he never left home without.

My heart was broken that my son was out there somewhere, that he needed help and law enforcement was limited in what they could do, and I didn’t know where to turn. We began to search on the internet for help, listing Austin’s case on every website we could find, trying to get information out to as many people as possible. We set up a website, email account, and phone numbers for leads to be sent or called in, we started putting out information using networking sites, and followed leads that took us all over the state searching. One of the most challenging things is keeping the media interested in the case, willing to keep Austin’s face and story in the news, especially because he is a male adult and the common perception from the general public and law enforcement is that if you just give them a little time they’ll show up.

Time and time again we’ve called on the people of Jacksonville and trained search and rescue teams from all over the state of Florida and beyond, and are blessed by their willingness to come to the aid of strangers. Now our desire is to pass that on through the creation of Finder’s Hope. In Austin's absence we choose to Celebrate his Life by bringing focus to the needs of many, that just like us continue the search, regardless of the months or years that it may take.

Finder’s Hope, a non-profit organization, is dedicated to bringing Hope to those with a Missing loved one through Direct Support and Services, Advocacy, and Education and Awareness.

In our pursuit of how best to help ourselves and others we attend conferences, training seminars, are in training with a canine in the detection of human remains with First Response Search and Rescue Team (FRST) based in Tallahassee, FL, SAR Tech III certified through the National Association of Search and Rescue, and testing for the next level SAR Tech II just after Mother’s Day. We are also called upon when needed by CUE Center for Missing persons out of North Carolina, the organization that set us on the right path from the very beginning of our personal search, and has continued to Mentor me in understanding all aspects of Missing Persons Cases.

I know now that one of my roles in life is to help or find help for those that others may not; male or female, child or adult, pretty or not, young or old, walking the streets or an honor roll student, speak for those that can’t, for all the Lost Stories, pray, because in God’s eyes we are all truly equal. We are here to help. Anyone with a missing loved one is invited to contact Finder’s Hope for assistance.

My hope is always that we find Austin. Whether we find him alive, or find his remains, I want to bring him home. I pray that someone, somewhere, has information that could lead us to him and is brave enough to come forward and say, I know where he is…or I saw him that day, and this is what happened.

One person can make the difference to our family, and can be the difference between never knowing what happened, and being able to bring a loved one home.

Our story submitted with loving memories, and hope.

Christy Davis

Austin’s Mom

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