One week has passed since the rural community of Mount Vernon, Ohio and all of Knox County was rocked by the tragic disappearance of Tina Herrmann and her two children, a 13-year old daughter and Kody Maynard, and their friend Stephanie Sprang.
Mount Vernon is a small town. When I moved there from nearby Centerburg in 1983, I thought I had moved to the big city. I learned over the next eight years, especially once my children started school that it was just like Centerburg. You could get to know your neighbor or you could know the name of the person who bagged your groceries. I felt comfortable letting my kids walk through the field to their friends’ house 100 yards away.
Knox County has had more than its share of media attention over the last couple of years. Scandals have divided the community while the whole world watched. Now, the community is tragically joined while the world watches again.
As word quickly spread the evening of Thursday, November 11 that four people were missing, the local forum – KnoxPages.com was the place for the most up-to-date information and speculation. Columbus media caught word of a lockdown at Kenyon College when Tina Herrmann’s truck was discovered nearby and the road to international media attention was paved.
Volunteers began turning out to form search parties. Two Facebook pages have been created asking for prayers and support.
The community rejoiced when the girl was rescued early on the morning of Sunday November 14 and at the arrest of her alleged kidnapper, Matthew Hoffman. Still, it was a bittersweet morning upon the realization that only one of the four missing people was found.
Monday evening, the community held its collective breath while watching live coverage of a vehicle being pulled out of a lake at Foundation Park. A former gravel quarry, the entrance to the park is very near to Hoffman’s home where he was holding the girl hostage, bound and gagged in a dark basement. In my own office, my boyfriend and I both realized quickly that the car that was being pulled from the water had been there far too long to be connected to the case. A sigh of relief went up, only to be deflated once again knowing that Tina, Kody and Stephanie were still missing.
The two children are students in the East Knox Local School District. Arguably the biggest sports rivalry in Knox County is the annual Devil-Dog football game, pitting the East Knox Bulldogs against the Blue Devils of Danville, just a few miles away. Students from Danville decided to show their support on Wednesday, November 17 by wearing purple, the East Knox school color, in honor of those still missing.
On Facebook, many people have changed their profile pictures to reflect three candles in honor of the three who have not yet returned home. Purple and white ribbons have been created and are being sold in order to raise money for the two families. Candlelight vigils are being held to offer prayers and support to the families left behind. Donation funds have been set up at various banks. Stephanie Sprang’s father and children are receiving donations of meals. Via the two Facebook pages, anyone in the world can offer support in any way possible.
This is how small towns react in the face of tragedy. They help in any way they can. Strangers console one another. They pray alone or together. We give each other hope, no matter how dark things seem. And I can’t imagine living in any different type of community.
The young kidnapping victim is recovering from her ordeal and is safe with her father. The search continues for Kody Maynard, his mother Tina Herrmann and her friend Stephanie Sprang. If you would like to offer your support visit the Facebook pages Pray for the Maynard Kids and Letters and Prayers for Stephanie Sprang’s Family.
If anyone in the Knox County area has any information, no matter how trivial it may seem, please contact the Knox County Sheriff’s Office at 1-888-363-TIPS (8477).
Local Forum: KnoxPages.com