Every parent has felt it. You turn your head for a moment and when you turn back, your toddler has vanished, your 12-year-old is no longer next to you at the mall or your teenager still hasn’t called and it’s 3 in the morning.

The panic begins with a slow, pounding pulse and just before it gears up for a full, terrifying assault: Your toddler is found hiding in the laundry basket, your 12-year-old meanders back from the restroom and your teenager calls at 3:05.

You sigh and shake, yell or laugh, but you never want to think about what living with that fear would be like if you had it for more than just that moment. How could you live with that pain for a day, a week, a month, forever? How could you live with never knowing where your child was? No matter his or her age.

James “Jim” Dugan, 42, had been missing for almost a week. Friends and relatives were certain he was in the Mississippi River; he’d been sitting on a dock when it collapsed and he hadn’t been seen since.

It was hard getting help and all involved were weary with frustration. Finally, the New Orleans Police Department called in Texas EquuSearch, a group of dedicated and compassionate volunteers who help find missing people.  That’s right: volunteers.

Its 1,200 members are trained in various rescue and life saving skills, and their backgrounds are diverse, ranging from housewives to former FBI agents. But they all have one thing in common: the deep desire to help families find their loved ones.

They use a wide variety of resources, including horses, planes, ATVs and dog teams. And in the case of Dugan they used boats and sonar.
EquuSearch did find Jim. His mother and his loved ones hadn’t expected a miracle; they knew he was dead, but because of EquuSearch, they now know where he is. Though the news is tragic, it gives them some small peace to the panic that had permeated their lives.

Texas EquuSearch currently is available to conduct searches nation- and worldwide and has been involved in 1,100 searches in approximately 42 states in the United States as well as Aruba, Sri Lanka, Mexico, Jamaica, Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. 

It is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, which is funded solely by donations. If you want to help them with their mission or thank them for what they’ve done for Jim and his family and friends, go to their website to donate or leave your comments.

Your donation will be used for search missions, equipment, fuel, food and lodging for the search coordinators, plus expenses associated with the operation of their mobile command center.

The first words on their mission statement page sum it up – Texas EquuSearch: Lost Is Not Alone.

Speaking as one of the approximately 2,000 members of the Help find Jim Dugan Facebook page, I want to sincerely thank Tim Miller, founder and director of EquuSearch, and his team of heroes for finding this lost child.

Rest in peace, James “Jim” Dugan.