Year in review: Community comes together to search for missing boyNo. 3: Rural Pierce County residents Dick and Barbara Meyer didn’t realize exactly the kind of people they were living amongst until their 5-year-old son went missing about six months ago.
By: Regan Carstensen, The Republican Eagle
Rural Pierce County residents Dick and Barbara Meyer didn’t realize exactly the kind of people they were living amongst until their 5-year-old son went missing about six months ago.
“The response we received was just amazing. It was for miles,” Barbara said. “These are people who didn’t know us, and they just came out in force and supported us.”
More than 1,000 people from Prescott, Ellsworth and New Richmond, Wis., Red Wing, Hastings and Cottage Grove, Minn., and other surrounding communities turned out to lend a hand after Scott Meyer wandered away from home over the summer.
Around lunchtime on July 3, the boy and his brothers were thought to be downstairs watching TV and playing in the family room, but without asking they had taken their activities outdoors. While 9-year-old Carl and 7-year-old Lane remained in the yard, their younger brother didn’t.
All of a sudden Barbara could hear Lane outside, she said, and it wasn’t long after that panic ensued.
“That’s when I did my head count and realized I was one short,” she said. “Where (Scott) would have gone, what he would’ve done, we just didn’t know.”
All of the Meyer boys are autistic and have minimal speech, if any, Barbara said. According to his mom, Scotty has difficulty in social situations and doesn’t know how to act, so it’s easier for him to ignore people. It wasn’t clear how he would handle hundreds of strangers searching for him.
“I was concerned that he would not come out if they were calling his name,” Barbara said.
The search began just after noon July 3, but Scotty was still missing later that night. Hundreds of volunteers returned to the home near Prescott and Diamond Bluff early on Independence Day to pick up where they left off.
“Over a holiday, it was unreal to get that much turnout,” Pierce County Sheriff Nancy Hove said. “You never say no to all that help.”
In addition to community members, officials with the sheriff’s department, the Department of Natural Resources and the Wisconsin State Patrol were a large part of the search. Eventually, however, it was an 8-year-old golden retriever who found Scotty.
Autumn and her owner, Jason Moser of Ellsworth, stumbled upon the boy a half mile away from his home on the other side of the bluff just after 8 a.m. July 4.
“He was about 200 yards from the railroad tracks and another 200 yards away from the Mississippi River,” Barbara said.
While many of the people who came out to volunteer contributed by searching, others helped the cause by providing refreshments to the searchers.
“Whether they donated water, food or prayers, we just cannot thank people enough for everything they did,” Barbara said. “We are very fortunate to live in an area that has such support — from the private citizens all the way up to the city and county employees.”
As a result of the situation, the sheriff’s department discovered the most successful ways to organize mass amounts of people.
“It was a great learning experience for the bad experience that it was,” Nancy said.
To remember how to best handle scenarios involving missing children, the department is putting together an operational booklet for future use.
Thankfully, the sheriff noted, children don’t go missing very often. Still, she understands how they do.
“You look at them one minute, you turn your back for 30 seconds and they’re gone,” she said. “It can happen to anybody.”
Having endured the frightening experience, Barbara can now share advice with others on what to expect.
“Know that the community around is so supportive in this area,” she said. “If your child goes missing, there will be people who will drop everything to come and search.”