Many people have a negative view of the world and I wanted to let people know that has not, in any way, been our experience.
Here's my article:
Austin Hudson-Lapore, 1992-2013
On the evening of June 13th, my wife and I got the call that every parent dreads. “Your son left the apartment yesterday evening and we can’t find him. We've called all his friends and no one has seen him since yesterday!”
My son Austin was a rising senior studying Biochemistry at the University of Chicago. The day before, he had completed his last final in the early afternoon and then returned to his apartment. It was forecast to be a stormy evening in Chicago as a rare kind of thunderstorm, a “derecho”, was passing over the city. At 8:34pm, with the rain tapering off, he logged off his computer, left his apartment and disappeared.
It was obvious to everyone who knew Austin that he’d gone towards the lake front, half a mile away, to watch the lightning as the thunderstorms pass over the city. He loved exploring the lake front parks and had been an avid weather buff since childhood.
Thus ensued a frantic search for the next six days in the area between his apartment in Hyde Park and the lake shore. With the media closely following the story, friends, family, volunteers, police, marine units and divers searched for him.
Finally, on the 7th day, a fisherman saw a shape in the water in the dawn light and the search was over.
This story is not so much about how my son lived or died but rather about what we learned in our search for him.
We learned that the world can be incredibly kind - With our faces splashed across newspapers and television, many knew us by sight. People called from passing cars their prayers and best wishes. We were stopped on the street to be hugged and prayed over. The people at FedEx Office and Staples printed all our missing posters at cost or for free. Businesses with private security cameras poured over grainy images looking for our son passing. Taxis stopped and offered us free rides. Volunteers papered the area with Austin’s image. I even had two kids dressed like gang-bangers walk up to me to shake my hand and to tell me their hommies were scouring their territories for him and for me to be strong.
We learned you have to take matters in to your own hands – Although the police put a lot of resources into the search, they also have limited time and manpower. We worked from morning to night coordinating help, getting security camera footage, posting missing flyers, updating websites and Facebook, working leads and talking to the media. The images of us driving the search brought in many more prayers and offers of support.
We learned to ask for and accept help – We used the media to appeal for help in our search. That resulted in community organizers offering their help with flyering and a search dog (over the objections of the police). With churches forming prayer circles for his safe return. With boaters offering to help us with a water search. And with volunteer searchers who scoured the alleyways and wooded areas for Austin.
We learned to reach out using social media – With the help of my very internet savvy sister, niece and her best guy, their website and social media campaigns raised awareness of our search with the media and among younger people who don’t follow traditional media. It also made our search national and international news with the story appearing in the press from London to Taiwan.
And finally, we relearned the power of family – My family is a very strong one. Even though this was a terrible time, we all supported and loved each other 100%. That love and support came through in all the media we did and we think it’s one of the reasons people were so supportive of us. It maintained our spirits then and it will help us to heal now. Because in the end all that’s really important in life is family.
Give your kids and grandkids a hug for us.