Joel Patrick Courtney
The Trail Grows Cold
Family and friends of Brooke never gave up hope, never gave up the search, but as the days, weeks and months went by, momentum was hard to sustain. Cammy and Greg Wilberger, Brooke's parents, asked the media to give the family some space, some privacy.
"Our lives have been changed forever," Cammy, a teacher in the Bethel School District, said in an interview with the Register-Guard in June, 2004. "Even when Brooke comes back, our lives will never be the same. The healthy thing for Brooke and ourselves is to try to be the best we can be. That includes trying to get back to some of our regular things.
"I always wondered how people could keep up hope for a long period of time," she continued. "But time fades and you don't even realize how much time has gone by. It seems like yesterday that Brooke disappeared."
The LDS church family surrounded the Wilbergers who credit their faith for sustaining them.
"We believe this life on earth is but a small part of eternity," said Marie Bell of Eugene, a former public affairs representative for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. "In the case of the Wilbergers, we believe the family is sealed together for eternity. Every fiber in my body says they will see her again."
And what kind of god could allow something like this to happen to a girl like Brooke?
Mormons, Bell said, believe God gives agencyfree willto people. "Given that, there are going to be people who use that agency in evil ways."
Cammy Wilberger said she hoped people keep their eyes open for any clues to her daughter's whereabouts, and said how touched she's been by the considerable attention and support from friends and strangers throughout the Willamette Valley.
The reward for Brooke's safe return hit $30,000 and kept growing.