© PHOTO/GRAPHIC BY HANNAH KOST
Written and produced by Hannah Kost and Danielle Semrau
Walking into the home of Dwight Foster, one notices the china cabinet against the dining room wall. Family photographs line its shelves: his stepdaughter at her wedding, him and his wife at the beach, school photos of grandchildren.
And there amongst them are photographs of Jessie.
Jessie would be turning 30 this May, a milestone that would have called for a celebration had she not been missing. As it stands, the photos that adorn the mantles and walls of her parents’ homes are those of a young woman. Her disappearance has immortalized her at 21 years old.
“This is one of my favourite pictures of her right there,” Dwight says, selecting a photograph of a smiling Jessie at her graduation banquet off of the shelf. “It’s just the glow in her cheeks… she just looks really, genuinely happy in that picture.”
Dwight gazes down at the photograph of his daughter, stroking
the image of her face as he places it carefully back on the shelf.
There’s a tenderness about how he handles the picture, and
a deep, palpable sadness.
Dwight Foster misses his daughter.
Since her disappearance, Dwight has become alienated from
many of his family members and friends. His depression,
he notes, has probably made him difficult to be around.
But there’s something else too: Dwight Foster’s opinion about
what happened to his daughter is not a popular one.
“Jessie was a willing participant in the beginning,” he says.
“She looked at this life as a viable way of making lots of money,
making it quick. 'Get in and out.' I think that’s where Jessie’s head
was. 'If I hook up with the right people I’ll keep control of it.'”
Dwight says that believing that his daughter walked willingly into the lion’s den has made him an angry man. His life, which was once filled with music and laughter, has been overtaken by the grief he feels for his daughter. Even at night, he has nightmares about what happened to Jessie. Waking up, his first thoughts are of her.
“I know that this has taken years off of my life,” Dwight says. “I’ve lived with so much stress and heartache in these past years that I’m not healthy anymore. I’m overcome with anguish and anger.”
Dwight’s guitars are no longer touched. He doesn’t see many friends. He is, he says, like a flashlight with dead batteries; no matter how much the flashlight is shaken in a frustrated effort to turn it on, it doesn’t and it won’t — the batteries are dead.
"We decided to make a difference"
Glendene Grant sits at her desk in her Kamloops, B.C. home. She begins playing a song as she leans into the mic at her computer. She is hosting her weekly BlogTalkRadio show about human trafficking and missing persons.
“I just want everyone to know that the song we’re playing tonight is by One Republic. It’s called Come Home, and it’s been dedicated to Jessie Foster — missing almost eight years — by Mary. Thank you, Mary.”
Four years ago, Glendene launched Mothers Against Trafficking Humans,
or MATH. While not a registered organization, Glendene has still been
able to successfully raise awareness about human trafficking
through it. On her radio show she interviews others who
share similar experiences. She speaks at conferences and schools,
telling Jessie’s story.
“We decided to make a difference,” Glendene says. “Alive or not,
Jessie is educating the world on human trafficking. She was a victim
of human trafficking long before she went missing. So she’s either
a murdered victim of human trafficking or an alive and missing
victim of human trafficking.”
Glendene has become a spokesperson and Jessie has, as she
describes it, become the face of the issue in Canada. MATH has
helped her cope and it’s helped her heal.
But the catalyst for Glendene’s healing process was the birth of
her granddaughter, Maddie, in December of 2007.
“That was a rebirth also for the rest of us,” Glendene says,
her voice cracking. She wipes the tears from under her glasses.
“Because now we can’t live in 2006 anymore… and I started
realizing I had three grown daughters who
needed — I mean who needed — a mom.”
In her downtime, Glendene focuses on her family. She has three daughters and four grandchildren. All of them are often at the house she shares with her husband Jim. It’s a happy home, filled with love and laughter. Jessie, too, is very much a part of their lives.
"Peace and serenity are two things you miss"
It’s been nearly a decade since Dwight and Glendene’s daughter slipped from their lives like a ghost, leaving so much capsized in her wake. They endure, suspended in limbo.
“When you have a missing loved one,” Glendene says, “peace and serenity are two things you miss.”
For now, Jessie’s fate continues to be a mystery. But mysteries, Glendene says,
need to have an ending.
“I need to know,” Glendene says. “I need her to come home. Jessie needs to
come home alive or dead… and if she’s not alive, then we’ll deal with that.”
Dwight has become a person he no longer recognizes. He avoids looking at
himself in the mirror; his life is quiet, static.
He believes his little girl is dead.
“Is she out there?” Dwight ponders. “A simple text: ‘I’m okay, stop looking for me. I’ll get in touch with you when I can.’ But nothing. Nothing means nothing.”
For Glendene, it’s different: the unanswered question drives her activism and her faith that her daughter is still alive.
“I might see Jessie again, I don’t know,” Glendene says. “There’s always that hope. So I haven’t put an ending to it with Jessie, and I won’t put an ending to it.”
Time passes. The grandchildren get older. The photos of Jessie remain on their shelves.
Most evenings Glendene finds time to sit at her computer. Its soft blue light casts her features in relief. She searches for unidentified remains found, human trafficking rings busted, missing persons. News, any news.
There is work to be done.
Read it from the beginning: The Incomplete Puzzle
Watch The Vanishing Point
"I was going to ask you how your relationships have changed since this happened."
"The last time we saw Jessie was Christmas Day 2005..."
"She's turning 30 in May."