When the child reemerges, parents may feel silly, like they've overreacted. But in Janis McCall's case, her daughter Stacy never reemerged. For 20 years, she's waited and wondered.
"Since Stacy disappeared, I expected her back every day. Every day. Then it got to be every week. And then every month. You know, any time now. And when Elizabeth Smart was found and she'd been gone nine months, I said, 'Okay, if she can be gone nine months, I have hope for Stacy.'
"It had been over five years, but I thought, 'Okay, she can still come home.' Then a few years ago when Jaycee Dugard was found, and she'd been held for eighteen years -- at that time Stacy had been gone seventeen years. And I thought, 'Okay, I can make this because Jaycee was found.
"I see her at 18. I see her as going out at night, with the yellow t-shirt and flowered shorts and brown sandals. And I see her, asking her, as she's holding the cake -- the graduation cake -- and asking, 'Do you want to cut this cake now before you leave and she said, 'No, I want to cut it tomorrow. Don't you eat any of it before I get here.'
"So for years we kept her cake in the refrigerator. In the freezer, thinking she would be home and we could cut that cake. You know, I expected her back any minute. When we went to Suzie and Sherrill's house, somebody said, 'Well, you want to make a pot of coffee and I said, 'No. I don't want her to walk in here any minute, Sherrill, and say, 'What are you doing in my house, making coffee?' Because I expected them to walk in.
"It didn't dawn on me until law enforcement was actually filling out their missing persons report and they said, 'Can you get dental records? I didn't immediately have a sense that there was something wrong. I actually was pretty darn perturbed and angry at her. I thought, just because you turned 18 and just because you graduated high school does not give you the right to upset the apple cart and do all this stuff that you know is not allowed.
"And at first I was gathering up things, went out to her car, was going to take her car. I figured, well, that's one way to get her to call me. She didn't call me before like she was supposed to. Then it dawned on me, when I sat in that car and I started to drive off, that Stacy didn't leave there and leave that stuff there. Stacy wouldn't have left her purse. I think they were taken from that area and I have no idea why and I have no idea where. I wish I did.
"I can remember going to a big event, around a track, and I saw long, long hair and I thought that's Stacy's hair. And, you know, it's really kind of strange for that person because you go down and stand next to them and say, 'Excuse me,' and she turns around and it's not Stacy. And I say, 'I'm sorry, I thought you were someone else. I thought you were someone else.'
"Sometimes I think I hear her voice. She had a definitely little twang to her voice, and it was bubbly, and I can hear her saying things and get silly and laugh and I think, 'Is that her?' Wouldn't that be wonderful just to hear her voice and have her there, or have her call me and say, 'Mom, I'm home.'
"My husband had a dream, and he doesn't dream about her. And I don't dream about her. I had a couple of dreams, but they were early, early in the investigation and her disappearance. But he said he was out washing the car and all of a sudden she appeared. He said she introduced him to her husband. And he was a French man and she said, 'I couldn't get back before, but here's my husband so-and-so and we wanted to come back and say hi.' And that was a crazy dream, but I haven't dreamt that. Sure I hold out hope. Nobody can take that from me -- is hope."