January 11, 2019 10:34 PM
No one had to organize the effort.
But business owners across Barron, Wisconsin were all changing the message on their signs Friday, welcoming home 13-year-old Jayme Closs.
Jayme had been missing since Oct. 15, when authorities received a 911 call and responded to her home in Barron. There, they found two deceased adults, later identified as Jayme's parents.
But she was found safely Thursday afternoon, after she escaped and made contact with a woman walking a dog in Gordon, about 60 miles north. The woman took Jayme to a neighbor's home where they called 911.
After getting the news, welcome home messages were already being posted as dawn broke Friday in Barron.
"It just organically happened," said Barron city administrator Bob Kazmierski by phone early Friday afternoon. "Any business with a sign on Highway 8 or LaSalle Avenue was out there changing it.
"An assistant here at City Hall always arrives about an hour before anyone else. And she was out there in the dark this morning already changing our sign."
Kazmierski said members of the community never gave up hope that Jayme would be found safely, and he credited Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald - the public face of the search for Jayme over the past few months - with making that happen.
"He conveyed optimism all the time and he encouraged everybody to keep looking, especially during holidays and other times when people congregate," Kazmierski said. "If he wasn't giving up, we weren't going to either."
In a press release, Diane Tremblay, the Superintendent of the Barron Area School District, thanked law enforcement and others who have offered their support over the past few months.
"Most importantly, we want to thank Jayme for being so courageous and for achieving an opportunity to find her way back to us," read a portion of the release. "What an extraordinary lady."
Tremblay said the district will eventually hold a celebration or ceremony welcoming Jayme home.
"Jayme, we missed you and we are so, so, so grateful you are home," the release concluded.
At Kate's Bar in Barron, a group of locals meet each morning for coffee. They said Jayme has been the topic of conversation since she went missing.
And that her return is welcome news.
"It's wonderful," one told KSTP Friday. "It's been hard for Barron."
In a Twitter post, the Cumberland School District asked all spectators attending Friday night's boys basketball game against Barron to wear blue apparel in honor of Jayme.
In celebration of the safe return of Jayme Closs, the Cumberland School District is asking all spectators attending tonight's boys basketball game vs. Barron to WEAR BLUE apparel in honor of Jayme.— Cumberland School District (@CumberlandSD) January 11, 2019
Let's celebrate together and show our support in BLUE! #CSDGoBeavers pic.twitter.com/40DPtWFh8U
Elsewhere, others were also celebrating Jayme's safe recovery.
At the University of Wisconsin-Stout in Menomonie, Chancellor Bob Meyer ordered a celebratory peal of the James Huff Stout Bell in Bowman Hall Friday afternoon. A release from the school said their thoughts and best wishes went out to Jayme, her family members and the Barron Community.
In the Twin Cities, Hennepin County said the Lowry Bridge in Minneapolis would also be lit blue and green Friday night - the same colors that community members in Barron used to decorate a Christmas tree for Jayme while she was missing.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth Smart, who was abducted as a 14-year-old in Utah in 2002 and held for nine months until she was rescued safely, also expressed joy at the news Jayme had been found in a lengthy post to her Instagram account.
"What a miracle!!! Jayme Closs has been found!!!! I'm so thrilled to hear the news," the post read.
"What has been such a heart wrenching tragedy finally has some happiness in the story. I'm praying for Jayme and all her family that they can have a joyous reunion and as the rest of the country celebrates alongside this happy occasion we all are mindful to give the family their space and privacy on their road to finding a new sense of normal and moving forward. I have no doubt Jayme and her family will forever appreciate the efforts and prayers of the many thousands of people who contributed and kept them in their thoughts and prayers! I hope we may all continue to support and embrace Jayme as she reclaims her life and comes to terms with the reality of her situation. What a brave, strong, and powerful survivor!!!!"
In a Facebook post, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children applauded law enforcement for helping get Jayme back safely.
"We are overjoyed by the news that 13–year-old Jayme Closs from Barron, Wisconsin, has been located alive after nearly 3 months," the post read. "We applaud the Barron County Sheriff's Department and the Douglas County Sheriff's Department and all of the investigating agencies involved for their exhaustive efforts to bring her home. Jayme is an example of why we never lose hope and never stop searching. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children stands with all of Barron, Wisconsin as they begin to move forward and heal."
Frank Rajkowski and Paul Folger
Updated: January 11, 2019 10:34 PM
Created: January 11, 2019 12:46 PM
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