Missing children remembered at the state capitol

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - In 2017, the state issued 51 missing child alerts and 10 other more serious Amber Alerts.

The alerts brought 14 children home.

A ceremony at the state capitol Monday brought together parents and loved ones from children who never came home.

Zachery was eight years old when last seen sleeping in his bed. 18 years ago to the day his grandmother honored him with a single yellow rose.

“It’s terrible and each year it gets worse. And then tomorrow is the day he went missing,” said Zachery’s Grandmother, Carol Bernhardt.

Mark Degner and Brian Hayes walked away from a Jacksonville middle school in 2005.

They’ve never been seen since.

Mark’s Aunt Pamela Cantrell described the event as, “Emotional. Because you get to see all of the other families that are going through all the stuff we are. It’s kind of a hard situation to be in.”

Morgan Martin was a pregnant 17 year old.

She left one night to tell the father it was a girl. She never returned. The father was charged four years later.

“We haven’t located Morgan yet, so, you know, there is always hope,” said her mother Leah.

Her message to other parents, "You just keep an eye on them.”

Nationally, there are just 23 teams that are trained specifically to search and rescue children.

Florida has seven of them.

The ceremony also honored police, citizens, and K-9’s who made a difference keeping children safe and then there were these words from the winner of a fifth grade essay.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked to kids who don’t even know their parents phone number. Some say they have it logged into their phone, but if you don’t have your phone, you don’t really have anything to go on,” said Denim Rhames, a student at West Gadsden Middle School.

This years ceremony was the 20th Annual Florida Missing Children’s Day.

It is set for the Monday closest to September 11th, the day Jimmy Ryce was kidnapped and murdered in 1995.