19-year-old Jennifer witnessed as everything she believed to be true was turned on its head one day, unsettling the world she had known. Jennifer’s faith in the world was shaken after only one trip to the grocery store.
Jennifer was checking items off her mom’s shopping list when she noticed her own face looking directly at her with the phrase ‘Missing’ printed in bold.
Jennifer came home for the holidays after a long semester. She was excited for her family’s Christmas lunch, as she had been eating boxed meals for months on end. The chores were split among the children and her mother gave her the duty to go grocery shopping.
Jennifer eagerly walked to the store, ignorant to what was waiting for her at the grocery store.
Jennifer sifted through the things on the list her mother gave her, carefully selecting each one. She was nearly finished with her journey when she remembered she was missing one product: a gallon of milk.
When Jennifer reached the milk aisle, she noticed something that caused her to pause.
Jennifer looked through all of the pictures that were printed on the milk cartons. The phrase ‘Missing’ was put on top of the milk container in big bold letters, alongside pictures of individuals of different ages.
However, something peculiar caught her attention.
What she saw made her stop in her tracks. She could feel her heart pounding in her chest as the face on the milk carton stared back at her.
Jennifer instantly knew who’s face it was. It was hers from when she was a child…
Without any hesitation, Jennifer put the milk in her cart. She needed to find out what was going on. Her trip back home felt unbearably lengthy as her mind raced with thoughts.
She was struggling to comprehend what was going on. She needed to speak to her parents, hopefully they would have answers…
The moment Jennifer set her foot through the door she yelled for her parents. Her parents cautiously walked to the kitchen, not sure what Jennifer wanted.
Jennifer hastily removed the milk carton from the refrigerator and positioned it in front of her parents, whose faces had changed dramatically.
Jennifer decided to say something to break the silence. “Why is my picture on this carton and why does it say missing above my face?” she asked her parents. Jennifer’s parents reacted with the same astonishment Jennifer did, saying that whoever was pulling this stunt was wicked.
Jennifer stood there, stunned, as her parents expressed their outrage and bewilderment.
Jennifer had never been this confused before. She wanted to believe every word her parents said but something just didn’t feel right. But then her phone began to ring and reminded her of the meeting she had with her friend and her neighbor, Amy.
She ended the conversation and left to go to Amy’s house, hoping that she would get the advice she needed.
She vented to Amy about everything that unraveled as her frustration reached its peak. That was when Amy’s mother emerged from the doorway. She had a worried expression on her face as she informed them that she would be walking Jennifer home.
Amy tried to disregard her comment but she then insisted that she had to speak to Jennifer’s mother about something. This raised suspicions between the two of them.
Reaching home, Amy’s mother joined Jennifer’s parents in the living room. Jennifer’s mother then asked Jennifer to get changed, for their guests were about to arrive.
Feeling apprehensive about what was going to happen, Jennifer acted as if she was going upstairs and hid in a spot where she could overhear the entire conversation.
Jennifer listened in as she heard Amy’s mom urge her parents to tell their daughter the truth, explaining that it is better if she heard it from her parents than if she went on to discover the truth by herself.
Unable to hold her composure any longer, Jennifer walked back into the room, ready to catch them red-handed.
“What is the truth? What are you hiding from me?” Jennifer demanded. Unable to hide the truth any longer, Jennifer’s mom spoke up. She explained that the picture wasn’t a prank, but a mistake. Jennifer was indeed once missing, but that was before she started living with her parents.
Unable to understand all this new information, Jennifer sat down and listened to all of what her parents had to say.
Jennifer got lost when on a trip with people from the adoption agency. She was then found by her now adoptive parents. It did not take them long to fall in love with her personality and pure heart, which prompted them to adopt her seeing as how they were already looking to adopt.
Despite learning the truth, the family had one last thing that they needed to do.
The newfound truth brought Jennifer closer to her parents rather than causing a change for the worse. The family then went together and cleared up the misconception with the police that was still accidentally sending out her picture for printing.
Jennifer’s story turned out to be a wholesome one, but sadly not all the people who had their pictures printed on these milk cartons could say the same.
Sadly, more than 2,000 children go missing every day in the United States. Although many of them are abducted by strangers, most are taken by relatives.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 800,000 kids disappear into thin air every year. The Milk Carton initiative was actually born out of a harrowing case that occurred back in the 1970s.
When six-year-old Etan Patz disappeared on the 25th of May 1979, he was walking to a bus stop that was just two blocks away from his home.
The boy had made the same trip many times before, but this time was different – he never made it there. As soon as his mom, Julie, discovered that he hadn’t arrived at school, she called 911.
Hours turned into days and days turned into weeks, but Etan was never found. Despite the boy’s photo being plastered all over the news and on every telephone in Manhattan, the case was never solved.
In 1985, six whole years later, Etan’s photo was put on the side of milk cartons. Sadly, Etan’s case was just the beginning.
The first one to initiate the Milk Carton initiative was an Iowa dairy farm named Anderson & Erickson Dairy.
In 1984, a paperboy named Johnny Gosch disappeared into thin air, which prompted the dairy farm to take action. As more and more dairy farms adopted the initiative, Etan’s case got retroactive exposure nationwide.
Of course, the police fully supported the Milk Carton initiative. The photos of missing kids reached hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens as they poured milk into their morning coffees or sat down to eat breakfast.
At the time, there were 1,600 dairy farms in the country. By the beginning of 1985, 700 of them adopted the campaign to help try to find America’s missing children.
President Ronald Reagan declared the 25th of May National Missing Children’s Day in honor of Etan. Sadly, most stories of missing children don’t have a happy ending.
However, a little girl named Bonnie Lohnman had her world turned upside down when she spotted her own face on a milk carton when she was just seven years old. It was the Milk Carton initiative that made her suspect she was living a giant lie.
Bonnie wasn’t an unusual child – she loved to play and was naturally curious about the world around her, even from a young age. However, Bonnie wasn’t brought up like other kids.
Despite the fact that Bonnie had never been to school or socialized with other kids her age, she had no idea how different her upbringing really was.
Bonnie lived with her parents in Hawaii on the tiny, isolated island of Saipan. The island had a small population of around 60,000 – in fact, many people outside Hawaii were oblivious to the island’s existence.
Bonnie was never allowed to go outside, and she never learned to read or write. Nevertheless, she trusted her parents and had no idea what she was missing.
After living on the island during her formative years, Bonnie and her parents moved to Colorado. The little girl loved the town, even though it was very different from the basic life she had grown to know.
She still wasn’t allowed to interact with the outside world much, but there was one place she was allowed to go.
On rare occasions, Bonnie was allowed to go to the grocery store with her parents. She loved the colorful aisles of produce and all the eye-catching packaging, even though she couldn’t read any of it.
On one such occasion, she was in the cool refrigeration section looking at the yogurts, ice cream, and dairy cartons when something happened to catch her eye.
As Bonnie was taking in all the sights of the dairy section and enjoying the refreshing, cool relief from the outside heat, her eyes were inexplicably drawn to one particular milk carton.
At first, Bonnie was enamored with the girl in the black-and-white photo who stared straight back at her from the carton, but she wasn’t sure why.
The girl in the photo was much younger than Bonnie – she must have been around three years old. But, the longer Bonnie stared, the more she began to recognize her.
Suddenly, it dawned on her that she was staring at a younger version of herself. Mesmerized, she waited for her father to come over to the dairy aisle, hoping he would be as delighted as she was. Puzzingly, all he did was buy the milk carton for her. He didn’t say a word.
Bonnie’s father made her promise not to show anyone the milk carton – not even her mother. She loyally kept it a secret, but took it everywhere with her.
One day, she went over to a neighbor’s house and accidentally left her prized photo there, oblivious that her life was about to be turned upside down.
The neighbor saw Bonnie’s secret and couldn’t believe what she was reading. The side of the milk carton had all of Bonnie’s details! Without a second thought, she called the police.
Bonnie’s “parents” were promptly arrested, and the police were able to track down her biological father. She had been lied to for most of her young life.
It happened when Bonnie was just three years old. Her parents were embroiled in a bitter custody dispute when her mother refused to obey the court ruling and fled with her child.
After four years of living with her mother and stepfather, Bonnie was reunited with her biological dad. All because of a twist of fate and the Milk Carton initiative.