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KSDK - Saturday morning, after an astounding day and an overwhelmingly late night, the parents of Shawn Hornbeck walked into a room to see the media, and they brought their son with them.
“This is probably the best day of our lives,” said Craig Akers, Shawn’s stepfather. “It's hard to even come up with words that can express the feelings that we've been going through since 4 o’clock yesterday afternoon, when we received the phone call. We were on our way home from work yesterday, driving home, in the miserable rain and nasty stuff, and we got the call that they believed that Shawn had been found and that he was ok. I think it's probably the phone call I'll remember most for the rest of my life.”
It had been more than 4 years since Shawn Hornbeck disappeared, and his family had never stopped searching. Anniversaries came and went, other children disappeared, and the family kept searching, not only for Shawn, but for other children as well. When they got that call, police told them they were 95% sure they had found their long-lost son. The Akers pulled over, then started the drive to see the boy they hoped was Shawn.
“It was the longest ride I've ever had to make, with the rain, and the sleet, and people driving 10 miles an hour, it was definitely a long ride, but worth every second,” said Craig.
When they arrived, “There was a split second of shock. The last time we saw him, he was ‘yay’ tall and eleven years old. It kind of throws you for just a second, and once I saw the face, it's like, ‘Oh my god, that's my son,’ and it was just a big group hug,” said Craig.
Shawn did not speak at the news conference, but he did smile, and embraced his mother and stepfather throughout. His parents say they hadn’t slept much. They got home from the hospital at about 1:30 a.m., and there waiting for them was crowd of estatic family members. They spent the overnight hours remembering, cherishing their child, and celebrating. They each took a short nap before the 8 a.m. news conference.
“We're really afraid to go to sleep. We're afraid we'll wake up, and it's all just a dream,” said Craig.
His mother, Pam, said, “Shawn is a miracle here. We're glad to have him home. It’s like I'm in a dream, only this time it's a good dream, not my nightmare I've lived for 4 1/2 years. We've got a lot of catching up to do. He's grown up on me, that's for sure.”
Both parents said one reason they wanted to speak was to give hope to other parents of missing children.
“I want to give that hope to the family, that these kids can come home. It may be years later, maybe days later, maybe weeks later, but they can come home safe, and just always keep that faith and hope,” said Pam Akers.
“One of the reason's we're doing this today is for all those other parents of missing children that are out there. I remember when I got a phone call that Elizabeth Smart was found...I remember how much that raised our hopes, how much fuel that gave us to keep going,” said Craig.
The family plans to continue its mission of helping other families find missing children, saying the Shawn Hornbeck Foundation will continue. “We have another member of the Shawn Hornbeck Foundation that can help us now, that can help us look for other missing children. That's something that's not going to go away. That's something we devoted our lives to 4 years ago, and just because we've recovered our own son doesn't mean that our work is done, and I don't think that work will ever be done,” said Craig.
The parents were asked about web postings that appeared to have been made by Shawn over the past few years. They say they haven’t had a chance to talk to Shawn about that, or to talk much about the past few years. They say they will when the time is right and everyone is ready. They did say that Shawn has not been going to school since his disappearance.
Both parents wanted to express their gratitude to all those who helped. Craig said, “We are so thankful for everything everybody has done over the last 4 years. The media has done such a good job of keeping Shawn's story in the public eye.
Thousands and thousands of people have helped in one way or another.”
And he had another message.
“Over the last 4 years, “I’ve told everyone not to give up hope. There's always hope. Hope is what gets you through.”