I know this blog was meant to be about my experiences in parenting and marriage but I think it’s appropriate for this post to take a slightly different turn. On Friday it will be November 22nd. On Friday it will be 10 years since Dru Sjodin was taken from us.
On November 22nd I called Victoria’s Secret at 2:30pm to see if I had to go in for my on-call shift. I was so upset when they said to come in since I was ready to start my weekend in Fargo with my family. I went in, completely irritated. At work we would get assigned to “zones” during our shift. That day they had me working the front of the store with Dru after she had been at the cash register, steaming new merchandise. Her shift was almost over but that hour and a half she was there with me made it fun. She had me help her pick out things for herself in the store and told me all about her boyfriend, Chris. Her eyes lit up talking about him and what an impact he had made on her life. She said, “I think he’s the one.” And I knew she meant it.
When she left, she was going to do a little shopping before getting ready to go to her second job at the El Roco – the local college watering hole. At the time, I was dating a bartender there who was close friends with Dru. They worked together every Sunday night and every Sunday night I’d go there to eat and hang out with them on what was typically a slow night. She asked if I was going to be in that night and I told her I was off to Fargo for the weekend. She gave me a hug and a big smile and said, “Well… see you Sunday night?” and I said, “As usual!” She walked out, blew me a kiss and said, “Love ya!” It was the last time I saw her alive.
I have had nightmares of her wearing the outfit she was wearing that day, down to those black shoes I used to tease her about. I’ve thought about every possibility of that monster seeing her in the front of the store when we were working. I asked myself why didn’t we get off at the same time so she wouldn’t have walked to her car by herself. I wondered why during what was the beginning of a busy holiday shopping season, no one saw her in the parking lot. These are all questions that haunted me and still do at times.
For some reason I had turned off my cell phone that night in Fargo. I woke up to 10 voicemails. Some frantic. I called my friend Leslie and she said, “Where have you been?! Someone from Victoria’s Secret is missing. It’s all over campus.” My heart literally stopped. I called the store and my manager said, “You need to get back here right away. The police will want to talk to you.” Walking into the mall was out of body – there were already Missing posters with Dru’s picture hanging on the doors.
The next few days/weeks were a blur for all of us. We all clung to each other for support as we sat at our old house on Harvard Street in Grand Forks, ND. We’d all look at each other and think, “This isn’t something that happens here… she’ll come home… right?” The day they showed the picture of A.R. was one of the worst days. Seeing his face and knowing that he was the one responsible for the disappearance of our friend was almost unbearable.
In the years since that awful day we have kept her memory alive – not the way she died but the way she lived. She has touched lives of people who didn’t know her, people who had only met her once and her countless friends and family. For us girls at Victoria’s Secret, we were and still are a family. Some of my best-friends from college came form working at that store. The picture on the right was taken just a couple of months before she was abducted. As many people know, she was a part of the Gamma Phi sorority on campus. We would tease her at work because most of us weren’t involved in the Greek system. Every fall all of the sororities would dress alike and take pictures in the front of their houses for rush. So we decided to do the same 😉 At one point she whispered to me, “Do you smell dead fish? You did shower today right?” and laughed – that fountain smelled awful!
We all have wonderful memories of her. Dru and I bonded over our love of designer handbags. We also tended to gravitate towards the same guys. I remember one night she said, “I met this REALLY nice guy! I want you to meet him!” – it was my ex boyfriend. We all got a good laugh out of it! She could make you laugh even when you were in a bad mood. She was sarcastic and outgoing. She was creative and talented. She had a bigger heart that any of us had, especially in our 20’s. She was always thinking about others and how she could make an impact.
I’ve watched her mother, Linda, keep Dru’s memory alive and fight for the rights of women over the last 10 years. She has become a part of my family and someone I look up to. Her strength is beyond inspirational. She has dealt with so much loss and agony over the years and her promise to Dru keeps her going. I love that woman. Dru’s absence has brought so many people together.
Now being a mother and a wife, I think about Dru differently. She would have made a wonderful wife and mother. She would’ve been the type of mother who would play dress up and talk in different voices and open up all sides of the imagination! She would’ve been loving, caring and compassionate. She would have been FUN. That is probably the hardest to think about at this point. What could have been. What SHOULD have been.
On Friday, November 22nd, I will remember Dru. The impact she’s made on all of us. The void that will never be filled. And I will be thankful this holiday season like I am every holiday season for my family and friends. For my husband and wonderful son. And for the life that God has allowed me to continue to have on this Earth. I will light 10 pink candles and have a jag bomb in her memory like she would want us to do.