How the Jacob Wetterling case influenced parents, kids in Minnesota

The profound reach of Jacob Wetterling’s 1989 abduction spans across generations—and has redefined what it means to be a child and a parent.

Those influenced by the Wetterling’s abduction both as children and parents most closely are Generation Xers.  Jacob’s would-be peers: those born from the early 1960s through the 1970s.

“Just one good kick is all you need then you run as fast as you can,” Rachel Williams, a Minneapolis mother, and Gen Xer, recounts instructing her children.

“Bite, be loud, do whatever you can to loosen their grip, and once you’re free, don’t fight anymore. Just run!” she exclaimed as examples of the self-defense she imparted on her sons.

Two of Williams’ children are pre-teens, around age 11 -- Jacob’s last known living age.

“You look at the images of Jacob and you see him as a young person,” Williams said. “And yet, he would be a peer of mine. He would have children of his own, and be thinking about how he would be raising them.”

Jacob’s story has been a part of her entire life in some ways, Wiliams told Fox 9.

Her vantage point is two-fold.

“The way my parents parented me, they were fabulous but we didn’t have those conversations all the time about who is safe, what if the person that is unsafe is someone that you know, and how do you deal with that situation,”Williams detailed.

Jacob’s case completely revised the parenting landscape and made the responsibility of “mom” or “dad” anything but a walk in the park.

“The experience all of us have had around Jacob Wetterling has informed my choices throughout the years and this makes it more present for me right now,” Williams said.

“It hasn’t been forgotten, no not at all,” Minneapolis father Scott Woelber said.

As he rides his bicycle alongside those of his two sons he reflects, “It makes it hard to just relax in the neighborhoods; you want to know where the kids are and what they’re doing.”

Woelber’s path – a clear contrast from the one his sons travel.

“Arranging a playdate has been a part of my parenting that wasn’t really a part of my childhood.”

The discovery of Jacob’s remains a resounding reminder of Jerry and Patty Wetterling’s resilience.

“We, as other parents, as mothers, feel it so acutely and know that [they’ve] been able to live those decades is inspiring to those of us that are trying to follow on,” Williams said.

“Gratitude,” Woelber said of his message to the Wetterling family.

The hope both Patty and Jerry Wetterling have held on to has surely helped protect children across the country and has comforted many families of missing children.