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Barron tries to move forward after Jayme Closs' return | Front Page



Everything happens for a reason

That bit of conventional wisdom, routinely tossed around when people face obstacles of all kinds, falls ridiculously short in the case of Jayme Closs.

What happened to this 13-year- old girl from rural barron is beyond inexplicable. There can be rational reason for a 13-year-old girl to have her parents, James and Denise Closs, murdered and to be abducted and held captive for 88 days.

The chilling details, unveiled Monday in Barron County Court, only made the case harder to wrap one's mind around, than the criminal complaint indicated that suspect Jake T. Patterson was authorities meticulously planned to kill Jayme, even though they never had online or in person. Patterson, 21

, said he decided to take Jayme after seeing her board a school bus as he drove to work one morning. He didn't even know Jayme's name at the time.

The sheer randomness of such a horrific crime is hard for people to deal with, said Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald, adding, “It's scary.”

The idea that depraved individual can shoot two people to death and literally snatch a middle schooler out of her mother's arms – the complaint indicates that Patterson, after shooting James with a shotgun, forced his way into a locked bathroom where Denise clutched Jayme in a bear if they cowered in the bathtub – for no apparent reason is the stuff of nightmares. But in this case, however disturbing, it's reality.

That helps explain why the case has attracted international media attention and, sadly, made a household name around the country.

But while the rest of the world will inevitably move on to the next big news story now that Jayme is back safe with family members, the challenge is greater for those who call Barron (population: 3,423) home. Over the past three months, resident mourned for Jayme's parents, the law enforcement look for Jayme's disappearance and sought to keep her name and face in the public eye, hoping against the odds that somehow Jayme would be found alive.

Moving forward

And now they, like Jayme, have a way to move forward

"It's been a difficult thing to absorb, for me as a lifelong resident of Barron, Wisconsin, and a lot of other people around here, "Barron Mayor Ron Fladten said late last week. “We always talk about how Barron is such a nice, quiet, peaceful place to live. And it has been and is, with the exception of this terrible tragedy that took place. ”

While he acknowledged that some terrible things happen in this world – now even in their little corner of it – the mayor said folks just

The dark cloud that hung over the community for almost three months began to lift when the news broke Jan.

10 that Jayme was found alive after escaping from the cabin near Gordon in Douglas County where Patterson had succeeded here captive since the Oct. 15 abduction from the Closs family home about a mile west of Barron.

"There was a lot of joy and lot of elation," Fladten said. “I think people in the community were overjoyed when they learned Jayme was coming home.”

A week after her recovery and three days after the criminal complaint laid out in detail how prosecutors say Patterson carried out the murders and the abduction, the mayor said things appeared to be down in the community.

Preliminary planning is underway for a community celebration, something Flutter believes will help the community move on. said that his biggest concern is that Jayme gets the time and counseling she needs to heal and adjusts to her new reality.

Barron schools superintendent Diane Tremblay said she still gets stopped on the street by people asking the same question: " How do we know our kids that they are safe? ”

After initially being reluctant to accept offers of help from outside groups out of what she now describes as an" overprotective "institution inct that made her want to limit the number of new faces kids would be exposed to school, Tremblay said she eventually came to realize that people with experience and expertise could provide valuable insights into how to help students, staff and community members cope with the Traumatic events of the past three months.

Newtown Ally

One of the people who reached out to the Barron school district was Michele Gay, whose 7-year-old daughter, Josephine, was killed in the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Gay is the co-founder and executive director of Safe and Sound Schools, an organization that helps school districts prepare for and respond to crises.

While Newtown and Barron faced different challenges, both communities have had to deal with a tragedy, said Gay said, "There are some common threads we share," Gay said. “Everybody knows everybody, we think. … There are elements that will help inform critical decisions that will be made in Barron. "

A crucial challenge involves restoring a sense of physical and psychological safety among students, she said.

" is a lot of fear to manage, ”Gay said. “There is a sense that, 'Oh my goodness, this could happen to me.' Even though the odds are astronomically rare, there is that idea that has opened up in children's minds.”

While Tremblay already has been meeting with various school groups to see how they are doing, she said administrators plan to do a formal assessment of all students and staff beginning on Jan. 29 so they can address the distinct needs of each person recovering from the trauma they have endured

"Right now, we just want to be sure our kiddos feel safe," Tremblay said.

Shortly after Jayme was found , Gay wrote a blog on the Safe and Sound Schools website her joy but also cautioning that the ordeal didn't end the moment Jayme was safe in the custody of law enforcement after seeking help from a woman walking here near Patterson's cabin. 19659002] "It is important to understand that Jayme and her community's journey does not end today," Gay wrote. “While we feel joyous at Jayme's return, the process of healing and recovery has no prescribed timetable. Each member of the community will have their own unique way to heal their own journey to follow. ”

Safe and Sound Schools, which started assisting the Barron school district while Jayme was missing, will continue its work with the district, Gay said. The group has enlisted several experts from its crisis support network to provide training and support in crisis response, trauma and recovery.

“We're making connections and making sure, first and foremost, they don't feel alone. We're going to be with them, ”Gay said. “It doesn't matter what your tragedy experience is. Our team has a lot of experience walking through tragedy and the many twists and turns it presents. ”As for Jayme, Tremblay's school officials are leaving the timing of her potential return to classes at Riverview Middle School up to the family. In the meantime, they are coming up with several educational options for Jayme when she's ready

Model of resilience

Fitzgerald, who adamantly maintained throughout the time Jayme was missing that he believed the teenager was alive, continues to sound an optimistic tone.

"We just have to move forward and never give up hope," Fitzgerald said. "That's kind of or my message all along. You have to believe that hope is out there. ”

Though many Barron County residents expressed anxiety about the seemingly randomness of what happened to the Closs family while Jayme was missing, Fitzgerald said such sentiments have tailed off since Jayme was recovered and the complaint offered some answers to the mysteries surrounding the case

“Our community will come out of this even stronger than before,” Fitzgerald said, pointing out that the case has brought people closer together and that they expect those bonds to continue with neighbors are committed to look for each other and more inclined to report suspicious activity.

Resilience is the key, Fitzgerald said, and resident need look no further than Jayme to find inspiration. After all she went through – from seeing her parents murdered to being bound and locked in Patterson's trunk for the 65-mile drive to the Douglas County cabin to whatever horrors she may have endured during her captivity – she found the strength to push away the weighted bins Patterson used to trap here under his bed and escape.

"There's no question: Jayme is the hero," Fitzgerald said. "The will to survive that she showed is an example of us that we can do anything if we work together and never lose hope."


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