Families of HOPE: Jose Sanchez
Jose Sanchez’s son went missing in 2006. Since Jose was reunited with his son in 2010, he has volunteered for Team HOPE. Read about his experience in our ongoing series from volunteers with Team HOPE, a peer support program for families with missing or sexually exploited children.
Our stories are stories of tears. They are stories of unspeakable, gut wrenching pain and, not often enough, they are stories of breathtaking happiness. I am here only because I lived for the day that I would see my son again.
I can also say that I am here in great part because of the support I received from Team HOPE. The unconditional support I received from Daniel, my Team HOPE volunteer, was invaluable. Every day without my son was full of agony and uncertainty; but every Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. I could count on Daniel’s support.
Something to count on
When my Team HOPE volunteer Daniel called, he would always offer encouragement and ask about my health. He wanted to make sure I stayed healthy not only for myself, but also for my son. Sometimes I would sit by the phone and I would not have the strength to answer his call; but knowing that I could count on him to call meant the world to me.
Talking to a parent whose child has been abducted is a difficult thing to do. Family members and friends very often stop calling, because there is nothing they can say to make one feel better. There is nothing else but the abduction to talk about, because nothing else matters. The great weight of this truth is too much for most people to bear. “Feeling better” or “getting over it” are not options.
It is difficult for someone who has not been through a similar experience to understand that the agony, stress and desperation never subsides, even after years of searching. Team Hope is made up of volunteers who have suffered through similar situations. Team Hope volunteers understand that it is ok to suffer and cry every day, as long as you are taking care of your day-to-day responsibilities and as long as you remain healthy for that beautiful, hopeful day when news will come of your loved one.
Every day for almost four years was a nightmare, but at about midnight on June, 16, 2010, I received a call from a U.S. Marshal in charge of my son’s case. They had found my son and his mother in Homer, AK. My son was taken into custody and his mother was arrested.
A time to celebrate
On June 17, I flew to Alaska. At 9:30 a.m. on June 18, in the offices of the Department of Family Services, I was reunited with my now 10-year-old son. The emotions I felt are indescribable, but “total bliss” comes to mind. On Sunday, June 20 we had a family reunion at my parent’s house in Chicago. My entire family had also suffered through my son’s abduction and now it was time to celebrate.
I have many memories from that day, but one comes to mind. I was standing on the deck, which overlooks the backyard. My son Joey was running around with his cousins, laughing and playing as they were having an awesome water fight. As I looked to one of the far corners of the yard, I saw my father sitting alone on a lawn chair. He was sitting quietly looking at all his grandchildren playing, and from the distance I could see by the turning of his head that he was following my son’s every move. My father was finally seeing his eldest grandson once again. It was fitting that June 20, 2010 was Father’s Day.
My son is a survivor of parental child abduction. He is a happy and healthy 8th grader, who wants to study astrophysics. By the grace of God and through the help and support of family, law enforcement, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and Team HOPE, I was able to recover him.
Sadly the work of Team HOPE is never ending. Many cases remain open and new abductions happen every day. I thank God for all who have also found their children; even if the children were not found alive. To those who are still searching, I will continue to offer my deepest prayers for strength, grace and the safety of your children.
If your life has been touched by the heartbreak of having a missing or exploited child and you feel you need support contact Team HOPE at 1-866-305-HOPE.