Dear Mollie

Emma Hartz, Contributing Writer

Dear Mollie, 

I met you the during the summer of 2017 on our first day while working for the GRMC day camp. None of us knew what to expect; we were told to come to the fitness center to start training, and that’s where it all began. We spent a lot of time going through paperwork, doing inventory on games and craft stuff, and preparing to start working with kids the following week. We weren’t sure how long our training was going to take or whether we got breaks. By lunch time we were all starving and none of us had a lunch plan, so we went to Chuong Garden for some great Chinese food. That’s where the friendship really began. That’s where I got to learn about who you, Olivia, and Nicole were; we all talked, laughed, and ate lots of crab rangoon. I don’t remember everything from this day, but the one thing I can remember clear as day was your smile. From then on, I don’t think I ever saw you without a smile plastered on your face. Your smile was so inviting for everyone that came across it.  

The kids seemed to gravitate to you because of your laugh and loving personality. Every day, kids would ask us all to play board games with them, or they would come sit on our laps and tell us about their newest toy. The kids would also push our buttons and leave us irritated, but you never really seemed to show it in front of them. There are so many memories of you, from playing interns vs children in dodgeball, to playing dancing games with the kids just so we could see their funny moves. The one memory that plays in my mind over and over again was our relay racing game we played with the kids this past summer. We put our own twist to relays and made the kids bear crawl, then hop on one leg, run and finally salsa dance across the gym. The kids all looked at us like we were crazy when we told them the different things they were supposed to do in the relay, so you showed them. You took your own spin of salsa dancing across the gym to get the kids excited to show their moves, and we recorded it. That video was one of the many memories of you that went viral during your search.  

Wednesday, July 18, was the last time I saw your smiling face. You left day camp expecting to be back the next day to go on the field trip with us to the county fair, only Thursday rolled around, and you weren’t there. All of your co-workers tried calling and texting you to see if you were coming in to work but you never answered, so we messaged Dalton. That began the longest and hardest five weeks of your family’s and friends’ lives. You disappeared without a trace; no one could reach you, and we were all worried sick. Friday morning, I drove to Brooklyn, Iowa at 5 a.m. to be a part of the search for you. I walked the bank of Big Bear Creek and through corn fields until it was time for me to head back to Grinnell to be there for day camp.  

The kids had no clue about what was going on. Meanwhile, our minds weren’t on the kids, but rather were racing over details from the days leading to your disappearance, trying to find something to make sense of everything. Later on, Chad sat the kids down, and we had a serious talk with them about you being gone. A week went by, then two, and you were nowhere to be found. Another field trip rolled around, and we were headed to the zoo. I was sitting next to a six-year-old boy who was constantly bouncing around and being happy and cheerful. He was trying to climb into the snack box that was in our seat when he looked out the window and saw a missing persons poster with your face on a passing semi-truck. His energy left his body completely as he sat down, laid his head on my lap and told me he missed you. His reaction to a picture of you showed me just how much the kids were hurting from you being gone, and it brought tears to my eyes.  

Your disappearance brought communities together as we shared your lifestyle of compassion and love for everyone. Massive numbers of posters, business cards, t-shirts, buttons, and more with your face and information were created and distributed. Your name became viral only days after your disappearance, and people were searching near and far to bring you home. Your story brought the nation together as more and more people began to hear about you, a small-town Iowa girl who vanished. Four weeks went by, and there were still no clues as to where you were, or if you were okay. The fifth week came around and I headed back to college, just like you would’ve been doing.  

Tuesday, August 21 rolled around, and I woke up with a bad gut feeling. I got on my phone, saw dozens of condolence messages, and was left at a loss for words. I cried, hoping it wasn’t true, hoping it wasn’t you. I wanted so much for you to walk home to your family and friends unharmed, like the past five weeks hadn’t happened. I wanted answers. Who would do this? Who would take you from your loved ones? Answers and theories started filling the web, and I couldn’t handle reading them, so I went to practice, distracting myself from my thoughts.  

On Sunday, August 26, I walked into the BGM high school, sat down, and listened to the eulogies. I watched your family and friends celebrate the life that was taken too soon. Your funeral was beautiful; you would’ve loved it. Laughs were had, and tears turned to smiles. The community of Brooklyn is holding a run in your honor and are encouraging people to be more careful on runs. Women are being urged to run with a buddy and stay in populated areas. Men are being asked to acknowledge that no means no and we, your family and friends, are making sure your life won’t become a political agenda. We know that’s not what you would’ve wanted. Rest easy Mollie, we love and miss you dearly. 

Your Friend,