Heartfelt letter from classmate of Jacob Wetterling

- A former classmate of Jacob Wetterling shared this letter with Fox 9:

Since Saturday, I've been having a hell of a time keeping it together, and when I start talking about it, the tears just start flowing. Aside from the horror and sadness of finding out about Jacob's passing, all of this just causes a flood of emotions that has followed every one of us for almost 27 years to come out. That monster not only destroyed Jacob's innocence, but the innocence of an entire community, and changed us all forever. Along with all the sadness, there obviously is also anger, but the person who has reminded me to focus less on the anger, and more on the hope and togetherness is Patty, an amazing woman, and a true inspiration.

I was born in St. Cloud, then lived in South Dakota until I was 9. I moved to St. Joe, and attended 4th grade at Kennedy Elementary. That's were I met Jacob, and we became friends almost instantly. We played on the same soccer team together, and Jerry was our coach. Jacob loved sports, and whenever I went to his house, that's pretty much all we did. It was impossible not to like Jacob. He was funny, friendly, outgoing, and had a smile that would brighten any room. That is the single most vivid thing I remember about him was his smile. He was always smiling, and it was contagious!

When Jacob was taken, no one knew what to think, or how to react. A small community like that would never even fathom something like this happening, and suddenly we were all living a nightmare. It did bring everyone together, and we spent many nights at rallies singing, praying, crying, and hoping for answers. People that didn't even know each other would hug and cry together, because we were all trying to cope with what was happening, and why it was happening. I spent most evenings at the Friends of Jacob Wetterling house stuffing and sealing envelopes, thousands upon thousands of them. It's so heartbreaking in hindsight, that the whole time, Jacob was such a short distance away.

Over this past 27 years, everyone touched by this has continued to hope and pray for Jacob and his family. I have many things to say about how I feel the case was handled/failed initially, and frustration about the fact that the case was only (and finally) cracked back open due to the tireless efforts of people who aren't even members of the law enforcement community. I'll spare that for now. This is about my friend Jacob and his family. This was about 27 years of hoping, wondering and waiting. Now it is about healing. We lost a beautiful young person, and we have to begin to heal.

-Jesse Smith

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