Today is September 14 and I am having coffee at the TR Inn. I am reading the September 10th edition of the Tumbler Ridge News. I love the TR News. I enjoyed the cover story with Carina Helm posing with the T-Rex trackway she found.
Each page I flipped through caught my attention with something interesting. Several articles by editor Trent Ernst and Constant Chatter by Jade Steckly were impressive. Pictures of the annual Lions Labor Day duck race, the August Fire Department report, the Booker-benches and Council News on page 10 were all interesting and very informative.
The picture that left me with an indelible impression was on the last page: the Parting Shot. Underneath the photo was the caption, “The leaves they are a changing. Early frosts and cold weather has convinced mother nature that winter is coming early this year.” My mind locked into the single word ‘changing’ which means to ‘make or become different.’
Two components of nature, as this article suggested, will cause the leaves to become different. The ‘early frosts’ and the ‘cold weather’ will change the vibrancy and brilliance of green leaves to that which is faded and smelly and brittle. The leaves themselves will fall to the ground but that in itself is a beautiful and hopeful transformation. The desiccated leaves remind us of the end of one cycle but the beginning of a new cycle with unlimited potential. In the spring the nude trees will again spring to life and the birth of new leaves will spread a new fragrance on the wind.
For more than four decades I have seen life turn to death and what we thought was death was actually the sowing of precious seed that ultimately brought life. I am excited about life….
It is now a month later. While I was writing that line my cell phone rang. It is my daughter. In a voice soaked in tears, she says, “Daddy! Daddy! I want you to pray like you have never prayed before. We believe that Terry has been murdered and our precious little Hailey has been kidnapped.”
Our granddaughter Rebecca is the godmother of Hailey and thus she, along with her daddy, became very close to our family. Hailey spent many, many weekends with our daughter and granddaughters Rebecca, Emma and Alexandra—she was definitely family. She shared my birthday, December 31.
I say to my daughter, “I’m going to hang up right now and I want you to compose yourself, take some deep breaths and call me back in a few minutes.” It is difficult for me to fully understand or comprehend what she has told me.
The phone rings again and she is now a little more composed. She gives me the limited details of the news release. I say to her, “Mom and Dad will immediately pack a few things and get to Sparwood as soon as possible.” Again, her emotions get the better of her.
My heart is broken! I step outside of the Inn, and cry like a baby. I think, “I have to call Sheila.” She will not be ready for this tragic news. To help prepare her, I have to regain my own composure. I need to get to her before anyone else did.
The phone at home rings a few times and then, “Hello?”
I am silent for a few moments and she asks, “What is wrong? I know something is wrong…”
“I have some tragic news. Terry has been murdered and our precious Hailey is kidnapped.” A whole bunch of emotions release. Her first words are, “No! No! It can’t be. Not Terry and our precious Hailey.” I turn off the phone and say, “I’m on the way.”
(I get very emotional just typing this stuff but it is a story I need to tell.)
On our way back to our home in Tumbler Ridge, Rebecca calls. Rebecca is a nurse in Red Deer. “Poppy! Poppy! Have you heard the news? I believe Terry has been murdered and my precious Hailey has been kidnapped.”
Again, lots of emotional energy being released as I pull into a safe area and listen to a very broken and emotional voice being heard all the way from Red Deer. “Poppy, what am I going to do? Can you and Nanny come? We need you to come.”
Tears are falling all over me and my heart is being broken, I share in her emotional outburst and tell her, “Yes! Yes! Nanny and Poppy are coming. I have talked to your mom and we will be leaving tomorrow morning.”
“Thank you Poppy! Thank you!”
By the time I arrive at our home on Valleyview Place I am a complete wreck. I park the truck in the driveway, and just sit there. What just happened? I hear the names Terry and Hailey and they are connected to words that I can’t get my head nor my heart wrapped around. Murder. Kidnapped.
I run up the steps and into the arms of my wife. We both cry and in the middle of our tears and blubbering the only word we can say is, “Why? Why? Why?”
Our heads are spinning and so many decisions to be made in such a short time. We contact our daughter Stephanie, who lives here in TR, and explain the situation. Then, it was off to Chetwynd to pack for a fourteen hour drive the next morning, Tuesday, September 15.
The rest of Monday night is about phone calls, text messaging, updates, more tears and the inevitable question, “Why?”
It is a long Monday night, but further calls to Sparwood begin to fill in some of the gaps about what had happened: The police believe it happened at 3:00 AM on Monday morning. Terry’s body was found by his Dad at about 10:30 AM but there was no trace of Hailey.
As my wife and I listened to this stunning information, there was still no update on Hailey. We literally crawl into bed to anxiously await the dawning of a new day.
The day begins with new updates—a possible suspect had been arrested but no details about the whereabouts of little Hailey. The atmosphere in our home is so surreal. We contact our families in the Elk Valley to see how they were doing, emotionally. It was not good.
I have an emergency dental appointment in Dawson Creek, but by 10:30 AM we are on the long haul to Sparwood. We surf the truck’s radio, tuning into different radio stations to get updates as we drive. Constant messaging and phone calls to family and friends kept us abreast of events. Why was the suspect not giving information about Hailey? He was the operator of the vehicle that was seen driving from the crime scene but as far as the public was concerned he may not have been the perpetrator. We ask each other the question over and over again, “Where is little Hailey? Is she alive? Is she cold or hungry or in distress?” We make ourselves believe that it would all work out in the end.
The drive to Sparwood is long and intense and just before Bragg Creek we are overtaken by darkness and a severe rainstorm that turns to slush and then snow. This is not helping the situation and turning from radio station to radio station was becoming unbearable. We need an update. We need answers.
Phone calls and messages are now coming more frequently. Candle vigils are being organized in the Elk Valley region with many friends and family members gathering in Blairmore, AB, the community where Terry and Hailey lived. Blairmore is about thirty minutes from Sparwood.
My wife spins the dial on the radio again, and we hear a news update on one of the stations. The announcer says something to the effect that “…the amber alert has now been canceled by the RCMP. They just announced to family and friends at the candle vigil that the remains of Hailey had been found.”
“No! No! No!”
This is the only word we can utter, screaming into the darkness of the night in the middle of a storm. The highway is a white blanket as snow has accumulated at an amazing rate. The Ford is not ready and a loss of control propelled the vehicle off the road, into a deep ditch and then along a tree line. I managed to maneuver the truck back onto the highway without any personal injuries or damage to the vehicle.
A call to our daughter confirms the worse possible nightmare. Hailey was dead. Murdered. In my spirit I cry out to God. It is a moment of desperation and anguish: “Why? Why our little girl? Why murdered and abused and abandoned?”
We’re not sure if we will be able to drive the last four hours to Sparwood. Our family encourages us to get to the nearest hotel and finish the trip in the morning. We press on.
Before we put the vehicle in gear we paused to pray. We arrive at our daughters house at 1:30 am on Wednesday morning….