WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — This weekend, hundreds of families from around the country will come to the Port City for the only missing persons conference of its kind in the US.
While it can be very emotional, it can also be very helpful, not only for the families, but also the agencies who are involved with an unsolved case.
“It’s just a place where they can be their self and they don’t have to explain,” Monica Caison with the Cue Center for Missing Persons said.
It is the national missing person’s conference held each year in Wilmington, but Monica Caison with the Cue Center for Missing Persons says it is about much more than just the missing.
“We want to impact the people who have never had a missing person,” Caison said. “We want to educate those who may end up with a missing person, but at the same time we want to comfort and bring comfort to those who do have a missing person.”
Caison said when a loved one goes missing, the family often does not know where to turn.
“They are confused,” Caison said. “They make the report. They get angry, because they don’t think things are moving fast enough or don’t think nothing is going on at all.”
Caison said this is a place for them to get answers.
“They hear first hand from law enforcement the things that they do behind the scenes that they can’t put out there in the public,” Caison said. “Sometimes families can educate theirself through these conferences and train their law enforcement. Go back and tell their law enforcement what they’ve learned and say, ‘Hey, can you try this in my case?'”
It is also a place where she said they can finally relax a little.
“They can actually laugh out loud at a joke if they want to and they don’t have to feel guilty for it, because the person telling the joke has a missing loved one too,” Caison said. “Does that make sense?”
It makes sense to the 350 people who make the list.
“We have to cap it off at 350,” Caison said. “Every year we turn about 70 or more away. It’s sad that we’re inundated every year with the calls all around the country wanting to come.”
There is one event that is open to the entire community. It is the candlelight vigil along Wilmington’s riverfront on Saturday.
“We hand out the national symbols which is the teddy bear and white roses,” Caison said.
Caison said they also unveil a wall with hundreds of photos of missing people and there is something extra special for those who are attending the conference.
“Our conference attendees get bused in from the conference with a police escort,” Caison said. “It’s awesome. They just feel honored from the minute that they get ready to leave for the vigil.”
Caison said they also honor some of the families who have found their missing loved one.
“Because they’ve sat in that audience before and now it’s their turn to get up to the podium and speak and say, ‘I’m done. You know? It’s over for me and still continue to have hope that your loved one will be found.”
The candlelight vigil is open to anyone. It is this Saturday at Wilmington’s riverfront park starting at 8 pm.