Blog

Category Archives: Krystine Dinh

Legacy

Legacy is defined as something transmitted by or received from the past. In my business, which so often deals with the aftermath of loss, legacy is at the vanguard of peoples thoughts. While it might not have been at the forefront of our minds when all was well, it becomes integrally tied into future considerations as we cope with the loss of a loved one. The closer our relationship to the one who has passed, the more we think about their legacy.

 

8-year-old Polly Klaas

When the past arrives suddenly and without invitation defining a legacy is a way to make sense of the senseless, and to give meaning to death. It was thoughts of legacy that helped me ascend from the depths of the abyss after Polly’s tragedy in 1993. She had given beautiful meaning to her life, but after October 1, she only existed in memory and risked being measured as nothing more than a statistical abstraction. I wanted to ensure that her death had meaning; that it was not in vain. To achieve that goal I had to create her legacy.

 

Violet and I thought that the Polly Klaas Foundation would be the instrument of that legacy, but instead we were deceived. Finally, the KlaasKids Foundation, which we founded and controlled, became the vessel upon which her legacy would be conceived and implemented. Stop Crimes Against Children became our mission and Polly was our beacon. Almost 20-years later, we feel a sense of accomplishment and truly believe that Polly’s death represents more than a point on a pie chart.

 

Amber Harris Video In Omaha, Nebraska the parents of twelve-year-old Amber Harris struggled mightily to define the legacy of their slain daughter. On November 29, 2005 Amber got off of the school bus at the wrong stop and was never seen alive again. Her remains were discovered in a shallow grave on May 10, 2006. The man sentenced to death for kidnapping, raping and murdering Amber was a registered sex offender who lived near her bus stop. At Amber’s publicly televised memorial her mother announced that her legacy would include school bus rerouting so that proximity to the homes of level 3 registered sex offenders could be avoided. Amber’s parents were successful in that effort.

 

 

 

Megan Kanka & Megan’s Law

So many laws are named after murdered children. When the mother of seven-year-old Megan Kanka quietly and eloquently told reporters that if she had known that a high risk sex offender lived across the street she never would have allowed her daughter to play alone in the front yard, it struck a public nerve. Since 1996, convicted sex offenders in the United States have been required to register with local law enforcement and citizens have been able to access that information to protect their families. Megan’s legacy is Megan’s Law.

 

In 2005, little Jessica Lunsford was sexually abused and murdered by a level 3 sex offender neighbor in rural Florida. Her father Mark began touring State Capitols lobbying for legislation that would classify lewd or lascivious molestation on a person under the age of 12 as a life felony, and a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in prison and lifetime electronic monitoring of adults convicted of lewd or lascivious molestation against a victim less than 12 years old. Jessica’s Law has been enacted in more than 40-states and Jessica Lunsford’s legacy will protect children for decades to come.

 

Legacy can be manifested in many forms. Every time that Michael Le and Krystine Dinh volunteer at the Sierra Search Center they add to their beloved sister and cousin Michelle Le’s legacy. Like so many others who volunteer with the KlaasKids Foundation or the Sierra Search Center, they have found a way to pay their loss forward through legacy building. You can create a movement that will change the world; you can conduct your life in a way that will honor the memory of the child, brother, sister, mother or father who inspires thoughts of legacy; or you can do any and all things in between. One is no more important than the other. What is important is that you honor the memory of loss in a way that soothes your mind and allows you to sleep at night knowing that you have created meaning out of death.

 

While Polly’s years were few, her stature diminutive and her experience was limited, her legacy is as vast as her courage. She inspired us to be bigger, better and more than we otherwise would have been. Through the work of the KlaasKids Foundation her final act has reverberated from the family kitchen table to the president’s cabinet table.

The Glass Half Full and Child Safety

It was expected to be 106 degrees in Patterson, CA yesterday. Packing lightly, I left my apartment to pick up Danielle [LaMar] from the BART station – ready to head down to the inferno we all call central California. Our three hour mini-roadtrip, though hilariously misdirected as we crossed Sacramento County when we were supposed to be going south, was smooth sailing as we caught up on each other’s lives and the latest in both of our family’s cases.

My first time doing a KlaasKids Print-a-thon was in Patterson nearly a year ago – the October right after we found Michelle. At that time, I was adjusting to a new normal as I started involving myself with the organization that helped find her. That October, I promised myself, Michelle and KlaasKids that I would be involved with this team for the rest of my life.



It was a strong commitment to make, to say the least. Recently, with the trial coming up, I have been reflecting on this new normal that I’ve made and how rapidly and dramatically my lifestyle, hobbies and attitude have changed as a direct result of her death.

I have always believed in optimism – making and seeing things better and brighter. Michelle’s murder presented what was possibly the most challenging situation to be optimistic about; it was senseless, cold, brutal violence that gashed into our lives and made us realize how dark and evil human nature really can be. We, as a society, see robberies and crimes every day on the news, hear about weird zombie cannibals on bath salts, maybe mingled briefly with others who have faced tragedies of their own – but until you taste the same sense of bitter anger, confusion, hopelessness and desperation for answers, you feel shielded from all the world’s woes.

Then there are families who are brave enough to hear about the world’s woes, and not only acknowledge, but face the fact that they should be preventative about protecting their children. Not by avoiding, but embracing, the conversation about child safety.

Danielle, Marc, Violet and I headed to the Patterson festival ready to meet and help those families.



Also joining KlaasKids was Tabitha Cardenas, who lost her own 4-year-old son in early 2011 in Patterson. I had a chance to meet Tabitha last October; she is truly a strong woman with a beautiful smile that seems to defy all that happened to her and her young boy.

At print-a-thons, there is no darkness. Parents line up with their little ones whose ages range from a couple months old to 18 years old, ready to get them fingerprinted and ID-ed. We meet children and teens of all sorts of personalities – from super hyper to rebellious to autistic or with a mental disability – but all children have the same thing in common. They are all lovely, young and trusting – all with the potential to be lost or kidnapped.

These parents wait in line to do one of the best things they could do for their children – prepare to talk to them about child safety. They watch proudly as their child gets fingerprinted and laugh as their sons and daughters smile broadly at our camera. They know that it’s better to be safe than sorry, that the conversation about child safety isn’t something to avoid – that it could be fun and educational.

At the end of the day, we fingerprinted over 260 kids and met dozens of families and parents in the sweltering heat of Patterson. Over 260 kids went home with their bio sheets, safety tips and DNA kits. Hopefully, over 260 kids will have the conversation with their parents about child safety and crisis prevention.

I left the print-a-thon with a spoonful more optimism.



KlaasKids’ print-a-thons have historically helped over a million children. We can only hope our families’ stories helped 260 kids at Patterson; heck, we’d be happy if our families’ stories helped even one more family out there.

A year ago, I was in a dark place. Now I find myself in love with our organization, our searches and the volunteer heroes that we get to interact with on a daily basis. If the abductors, kidnappers and murderers expected our families to back down and whimper at our losses, I hope they know that our optimism overpowers whatever power they think they have. That our loved ones’ legacies far outweigh their pitiful, rotten existences.

Now that’s looking on the bright side of things.

As Danielle and I head back to the East Bay, the temperature drops to a thankfully cooler 88 degrees. The sun is shining brilliantly as we wish those 260 kids the happiest – and safest – futures that they could have.

Sierra LaMar: Anatomy of a Search Day 20

Milestones

By Krystine Dinh

Sierra’s search center was buzzing.

Today was productive. Though it has almost been a month since Sierra’s disappearance, over 300 volunteers came ready to search. Brian, armed with new search assignments, successfully dispatched 34 search teams to Morgan Hill. It was a cold day, but the sun shined bright. If Sierra’s nearby, I thought, at least it isn’t raining.

Today may have been productive, but not easy. The month milestone is approaching in two days. That means 31 days of unanswered prayers. 31 days without Sierra: A month too long.

We are people of milestones. Together, we celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, engagements, weddings, promotions, graduations. Then there are those who are tied together by milestones of a darker kind – deaths, tragedies, kidnappings, murders, abductions. Dates forever branded in your memory. For Polly’s family:  October 1st. Our family: May 27th. Now, Sierra’s family: March 16th.

At points throughout the day today, I found myself angry – disgusted at the monsters that have imposed those dates upon us. Those days will never just pass by without notice. For Sierra’s family, March 16th will never be just another day.

One reporter said to me, “I heard there were over eight families here who have gone through a similar situation. Can you tell me about them?” I was almost paralyzed by that question – where do I start? We are connected by milestones of tragedy – ragged, pained threads that bind us together. Given the choice, we would have much rather lived in ignorance – our families untouched and our loved ones unharmed. But, here we are.

As the month milestone approaches, I pray for all the strength in the world for Marlene, Steve, Danielle, Rick, Ashley, Connie, Keith, Sierra’s cat Chester, and the rest of her family, so they may find solace in each other on Monday the 16th. I pray for persistence and leadership for the volunteers so they may continue their efforts as time continues. I pray for safety for our search teams.

I pray for Sierra – for her life, her warmth and her safety.  I pray that one day we will celebrate another milestone – the day she returns home to her family.

Sierra LaMar: Anatomy of a Search Day 6

On the Other Side

 

This routine is familiar. I woke up at 6AM, prepared to make a long drive to a search center that promises an even longer day. Media trucks are parked outside, but our family is not the one they’re looking to hound now. A long line forms outside with volunteers eager to help. Most are not familiar faces, but their presence is calming. The emotions that come with every search are difficult for me to comprehend – filled with anxiety, but unbeatable hope, exhaustion but perseverance. But this time, I’m on the other side. I’m a volunteer – one of the many- simply looking to make even an ounce of difference in the effort to bring Sierra home.
 “Whatever it takes”, I tell myself – the same phrase I repeated in my head over and over when Michelle went missing last May.
 The first time I met Sierra’s family, I was speechless. What is there to say that would suffice? They are facing a nightmare every minute of the day; they wake up each morning wondering where Sierra is and every night hoping Sierra is alive, fed, safe, warm, trying to find her way back. And on top of all of that, they have to use whatever brain power they have left to coordinate a national effort to bring Sierra home.  I came to the LaMars’ searches knowing that it has only been six months since I faced the same emotions, fought with the same demons – hoping that I would be strong enough now to help others be strong.
 And now I remember. I remember that searches give you an acute sense of how many compassionate people exist – their hearts big enough to give love to people they have never met.
 It amazes me every time. Today, more than 650 volunteers of all ages to came to Morgan Hill to help search, flier and promote fundraising efforts. 70 search teams were dispatched, extending the search radius to 20 miles from Sierra’s home.  Teenagers helped make signs and tie bows. Restaurants, grocery stores donated large amounts of food and water. The most passionate volunteers found themselves in significant roles within the Search for Sierra – whether that be making phone calls or braving poison oak as searchers.
 At searches, everyone is working toward something much, much bigger than themselves. And despite the ugliness that surrounds Sierra’s disappearance, searches remind you that there remains so much good in the world.
 I am in awe of the community that is pulling together for Sierra. I hope this sends a loud, clear message to the abductors, sex offenders, human traffickers, perpetrators, kidnappers, murderers and rapists – that they will not and cannot take our loved ones without a fight. That, if you take one of ours, we are not staying silent.
 From what I have learned, Sierra is a fighter – always sticking up for her friends, speaking her mind, relentlessly showing her loved ones that she cares for them. So, I pray that her community continues to show up for her the way she would for all of them. Together, we can and will bring Sierra home – whatever it takes.