Friday, April 8, 2016

Woodstock Remembers Tori

The significance of the date of April 8th will forever be connected to a little girl I never even knew.  But every year on this day in particular, I think about her and it brings tears to my eyes. While I never knew her, n time, she became know as Woodstock's Little Girl.

"It will be day of reflection for many in Woodstock, as the community marks the seventh anniversary of Tori Stafford’s disappearance." read the news report and it's most certainly true in my case. We all read about these kinds of stories but when it hits close to home it really does hit harder, and hurts deeper.

Even though I didn't know Victoria Stafford, what I didn't realize at the time she went missing, was that I knew plenty of people that did know her, went to school with her, knew her family, etc.  Woodstock is a pretty small town and it's not too hard to make connections between friends and family. Two of our own teenagers are friends with Tori's older brother.

I thought about Tori this morning when I woke up, and my daughter said "mom, you're not wearing purple today!" (purple was Tori's favorite color).  I thought about her as I drove my grand daughter to school and listened to the lady on the radio mention that it was seven years ago today that this sweet little girl was kidnapped as she walked home from school on this day.  I thought about her as I ran errands and heard another mention on the news on the van radio that there will be a remembrance ceremony this evening downtown at 6:30 where those gathered will be releasing purple balloons in her memory. If you're local and would like to attend, you can read more about that here.

I thought about Tori as I parked the van and walked across the street to pick up my grand daughter after school, and saw the sea of parents waiting there for the exact same reason.  And realizing how that actually became a thing, after what happened to Tori.  Sure there have always been parents that meet the kids after school but after Tori, the crowds of parents grew by a considerable amount. I thought about how my own (almost 7 yr old) grand daughter is only a year younger than Tori was in April of 2009, and how precious and sweet little girls are at that age.

I thought about the day after she went missing and how literally every street I turned onto had police vehicles.  Police officers walking up and down sidewalks, gathered in parking lots, etc.  They were literally everywhere you looked.  The search helicopters hovering over our house searching, searching, searching for this sweet little girl. Flyers were already being posted and handed out and I took one, came home and blogged about it immediately.  Blogging was the social media platform most used in 2009 and that was the best way I knew to get the word out about this missing child. As the days went by I continued to update that first post with link after link and our family prayed, and Woodstock prayed, Ontario and all corners of Canada prayed.  What none of us knew, was that this sweet little girl was brutally taken from this world the very same night she was taken from her walk home from school.

But Tori, and what she went through, changed a lot of things for the better.  The school system here is far more diligent about student safety than it ever was before.  Parents are far more diligent as well, even though I'm sure we all thought we already were.  Kids of all ages know who Tori was and why it's so important to never deviate from the normal routine without permission from home. Yet for all the good that came from horrific tragedy, there will always be a painful loss in the families of Tori's mother and father, and brother, and those that were closest to her.  So we remember with them, and continue to pray for them.