By now you are well aware of the Help Find the Missing Act (Billy's Law) S.3019. I pray my words carry weight with you and the rest of the committee. This is a very hard letter for me to write as I know first hand the major importance of this bill becoming law. I only ask that you read this and when done you back and co-sponsor this extraordinary piece of legislation.
You now know that there are over 100,000 missing in our great country and anywhere from 40,000 to 60,000 unidentified remains of people all over this country. Sad isn't it that we can't even come up with an accurate count? Billy's Law will change that! Those numbers by themselves should get your attention. But have you stopped to think about how many lives are forever changed when a loved one is missing? Each one of those 100,000 missing have family, friends and coworkers who daily are impacted by the loss of a loved one or friend. At the very least 1 person missing will severely impact and alter the lives of at least 5 people. 1/2 million plus US citizens get up every morning and go to sleep every night living this nightmare. A nightmare that can go on for years and decades. If 1/2 million people were suffering from the flu you would sit up and take notice, wouldn't you? It would be an epidemic. Well Senator these numbers are an epidemic that no one in this country is immune to. This can happen to anyone's family, anyone.
Do you know how many people are missing in your state? Do you know where to turn to get those numbers and see those faces? I've looked at some state sites and can list 20 others or more missing from their state that they don't have listed. The public has no idea how huge the numbers are of the missing. And, they certainly don't realize how many unidentified remains exist throughout the country, remains of humans that have no names. Remains that their loved ones are searching desperately to find but if the disconnects in the current system continues they have little hope of ever finding them. Do you know how many unidentified remains are in your state? Doesn't it make sense to do all you can do to strengthen NamUs so the data is all housed in one clearinghouse, one repository for both the missing and the unidentified remains?
I recently directed a reporter from one of our large cities to NamUs. This reporter wanted to do a story on young adults missing from her area but was clueless where to look. A seasoned reporter couldn't come up with a list that is how disconnected, fragmented this world of the missing is.
For four years I searched for my husband of then 24 years. Law enforcement gave me no resources, no explanations on how things would proceed. They didn't explain any procedures, didn't ask for our children's DNA for sample. They didn't even ask for dental records or fingerprint records. They basically threw me to the wolves. It became quite evident to me quite early on that I would have to conduct my own searches and do my own investigating. There was no NamUs.gov in place. So after working 12-14 hour days I would come home and sit on the computer for hours on end scouring Coroners' and Medical Examiners' and Law Enforcement sites and some pretty shady unprofessional sleuthing sites, looking at dead bodies and reconstructions in the hopes of finding my husband. I scoured news websites and every time a body was found I would be contacting the reporter and/or law enforcement to get more details. In those 4 years I searched 1,000's of sites. I logged over 4,000 hours on the Internet search alone. No one should ever have to go through what I did. Once Billy's Law is law it will strengthen NamUs and give the families a tool that will have verified information on it, information all entities can trust.
I mentioned that I went to unprofessional sites well it took me awhile to realize that the owner's and contributors to these sites never verify the information they throw out for the public to see. Something as simple as a wrong date listed when remains are found can cause great grief and stress for a family member searching for their loved one. We recently in this world of the missing had an incident where an unprofessional so called advocate for the missing showed a UID to the father of a missing son which bore strong resemblance to his son but these remains were found a year before this man's son went missing. Don't you think it would be more humane to support one repository where all the data is verified and searchable by the families instead of having more incidents like this adding more pain to a family member? Don't get me wrong we need tons of awareness sites but we need one site where the families, law enforcement, PI's, media and the public can go to and put in search parameters that are specific to their case and trust the information that is generated from that search...that site is NamUs.gov.
Billy's Law will help NamUs to become a household name. And, when a family first realizes their loved one is missing they will know to turn to NamUs, they will know to work with their law enforcement to get accurate and complete information into NamUs and they won't have to spend 4,000 hours on Internet searches. They won't have to worry that if their loved one's remains are found that they aren't sitting on a shelf or in a pauper's grave nameless. And, they will know that once their missing loved one is entered into NamUs eyes across the country will be looking for them...awareness doesn't get any better than that. Lessening the wait time for answers for these families should be everyone's goal.
1/2 million loved ones of the missing impacted. The government has rushed in and helped far less numbers of citizens in times of national disasters, tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, fires, etc. The missing and unidentifieds and the impact on their families and friends is a national disaster. Many of the families of the missing have lost everything searching for their loved one yet the government doesn't rush in to help these victims in one of the most devastating, ongoing traumatizing events that can happen to anyone...having a loved one missing. How wrong is that? 1/2 million US citizens impacted, how devastating is that? And, all they ask for and all they pray for is an answer. Those answers can come through passing Billy's Law.
Please stand behind these families and support and co-sponsor and pass the Help Find the Missing Act (Billy's Law) s.3019.
Thank you for your time and your service to our country.