I arrived in Minnesota for college in the fall of 1989. Little was I to know how an abduction incident that happened just weeks after I got here would impact my life and the lives of my contemporaries. In a way, it stole some of the innocence from an entire generation.

I had been on campus at Concordia College (now Concordia University) in St. Paul for about two months when Jacob Wetterling was abducted. It was the first big news of my "adult" life. I watched in shock along with an entire state and region as it all unfolded. A missing 11-year-old boy. No leads. Days stretched to weeks. Weeks stretched to months. Still, nothing. Pictures on milk cartons. Images on billboards. Rewards for information. Nothing.

Seven years earlier, and it could have been me. Growing up in the suburbs of Denver, Colorado, we’d spend hours around the neighborhood playing football in somebody’s backyard, riding our bikes through the open fields near our housing development or walking a mile or more to one of the local arcades to play video games. Rarely, if ever, did we give any thought to the idea that some stranger could show up, grab us and do unspeakable things to us, and then end our lives.

I mean, sure, kids got taken on rare occasions. But generally it seemed that an abduction involved a parent or relative and was a result of some kind of family friction. Strange men didn’t just go around grabbing unsuspecting kids. At least that’s what I thought until the fall of 1989.

I’m not sure it really hit me at the time how much the Jacob Wetterling case affected me. But I think it has hit home now as a parent of two kids a few years either side of 11. They don’t just get to roam the neighborhood like my friends and I used to. They don’t walk to the bus stop alone. Even as one of them has now entered the teenage years, I keep a very watchful eye on their comings and goings.

I know you can’t protect your kids from everything. And sometimes you have to let them go out and explore the world on their own. But as long as it’s possible for real-life monsters like Jacob Wetterling’s abductor to roam the streets for 27 years after committing some of the most heinous crimes imaginable, I’m going to keep hanging on a little tighter and continue being vigilant about the safety of my children. I simply can’t imagine going through all that the Wetterling family has endured for nearly three decades. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

The Jacob Wetterling Resource Center posted this yesterday on its Facebook page. A poignant reminder of how like him so many of us were, and maybe how similar own our kids are now or will be someday...