Jennifer was 19-years-old when her life changed. Everything that she thought was true turned upside down and changed the world she once knew. One visit to the supermarket made her question everything and everyone she had ever trusted.
She was ticking items off of her mother’s grocery list when saw her own face staring back at her. She was speechless when she read the word, ‘Missing’ above her face.
Over For Dinner
Jennifer came back home for Christmas after an exhausting semester, ready for the feast she’d have with her parents. After having the chores distributed among the family members, she was set for her grocery hunt.
With a list at hand, Jennifer could not have foreseen what she’d find at the supermarket.
Don’t Forget The Milk
Going through the items on the list her mother had given her, Jennifer picked out each and every item carefully. She was about done with her trip when she realized there was one item left, a carton of milk.
Making her way to the milk aisle, Jennifer saw something that made her do a double-take.
On The Milk
Scanning the milk cartons, Jennifer looked through the images on the cartons. Pictures of people of all ages were placed on the milk carton with the word ‘Missing’ written on top with all bold letters.
Sitting among the other cartons of milk in the freezer, something strange caught her eye.
Could It Be?
Just when she was ready to pick up one of the cartons, she spotted something that sent chills down her spine. Printed on one of the milk cartons was a face that stared right back at her.
Looking closer, Jennifer recognized the person on the milk carton. It was a picture of her own face from years back.
The Familiar Face
Jennifer instantly grabbed the milk carton, putting it in her stroller. She needed answers and needed them now. Her drive back home felt excruciatingly long as the endless possibilities roamed her mind.
Nothing made sense, but she knew she had to ask the only people who could have the answers to all her questions, her parents.
Pulling Out The Receipts
Making her way through the front door of her house, Jennifer called her parents to the kitchen, not wanting to waste any more time. She placed the grocery bags on the kitchen counter as they both walked in clueless to what Jennifer could possibly want.
Jennifer quickly pulled out the milk carton and placed it in front of her parents whose expressions suddenly changed.
Answers Or More Questions?
Jennifer spoke up after the room turned silent. “Why is my picture on this carton and why does it say missing above my face?” she questioned. Her parents gave the same shocked reaction Jennifer had herself, expressing that whoever was making this prank was sick.
Jennifer watched as her parents voiced their anger and confusion in complete and utter shock.
Jennifer was more confused now than ever. She wanted to believe what her parents had to say, but something about this felt really wrong. Then, her phone rang, reminding her of the plans she had of meeting her friend and neighbor Amy.
The conversation ended there as she made her way to Amy’s house, hoping to acquire some valuable advice.
After venting to Amy about the events that unraveled, she felt her frustration reach its peak. Amy’s mother then emerged from the doorway. With a worried expression, she let the two know that she will be walking Jennifer home.
Amy tried to disregard her mother’s comment, but she insisted on adding that she had to speak with Jennifer’s mother about something, which raised suspicion for the two.
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.
The Need For Explaining
“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.
The Untold Truth
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 Truth’s Effect
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 were 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.
A Tragic Case
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 Milk Carton Photo
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.
Grateful For The Help
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.
The Case Of Bonnie Lohnman
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.
Growing Up In Isolation
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.
Moving To Colorado
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.
The Grocery Store
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.
A Life-Changing Discovery
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.
Her Own Face
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.
Her Secret Treasure
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.
Calling The Police
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.