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Echo Press editorial: A lesson from Jasmine: Never give up hope

Jasmine Block (right) with her mother Sarah Block (left) Tuesday night, after she was found in Grant County. (Contributed)

Grateful prayers of relief swept through Douglas County Tuesday afternoon when news broke that a 15-year-old Alexandria girl who was missing for 29 days was found — alive, safe and reunited with her family.

All too often, such cases end in tragedy. In fact, Alexandria Police Chief Rick Wyffels noted that

the percentage of missing people who survive after being gone for that long is extremely low.

"Only 5 percent live. That's all," he said.

There's a lot of credit to go around for having the case end this way, starting with the 15-year-old, Jasmine Block. To escape from such an ordeal — being held against her will for so long and repeatedly assaulted by three men, according to authorities — is a testament to this brave young person's fight for life.

When the suspects finally left her alone, Jasmine ran for help, knocking on doors at several homes, but no one was there. She eventually swam across part of a lake and ran through a field in Grant County toward a farmer.

Here's where another part of the story unfolds: The farmer instantly recognized her because of all the attention and concerns her disappearance had raised in the community and immediately alerted authorities. After 29 harrowing days, Jasmine was safe.

Throughout her disappearance, no one gave up. Not her mother, Sarah, other family members or her friends. They all believed she was alive and kept their hopes alive — a hope that pervaded across the community through prayers, encouragement and faith.

Flyers and signs with her face were put up in yards and businesses around Alexandria, and even on electronic billboards along Interstate 94. Prayer vigils were held on her behalf, a Facebook group formed and a $7,000 reward was offered for her safe return.

Law enforcement also did not give up. They mounted massive searches, helped by volunteers who joined the efforts. The Alexandria Police Department worked closely with a slough of other agencies in looking for Jasmine and hunting down the suspects — the FBI, Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Minnesota Department of Corrections, Douglas County Sheriff's Office, Grant County Sheriff's Office, Pope County Sheriff's Office and the Glenwood Police Department.

There's still a lot of healing to do for Jasmine and her family — an ordeal like this can't be cleared away with a snap of a finger — but with continued support, they'll get through this.

A candlelight vigil for this Friday, which had been planned when Jasmine was still missing, will now be transformed into a "welcome home" celebration. Jasmine's disappearance, her resolve, law enforcement's persistence and the outpouring of support underscores what hope and a little unity can accomplish. Youth Pastor Kevin Taylor, who was with Sarah when she was reunited with her daughter, said it best: "We are better together as a community."

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Echo Press editorials represent the opinion of the Echo Press Editorial Board, which includes Jeff Beach, Editor; Jody Hanson, Publisher; and Al Edenloff, News/Opinion Editor.