As Saturday dawned, Matt looked at the ceiling in his hotel room, wondering what else he could do to find Anna. He had contacted all the hospitals in the area on the phone and in person. Not one of them received any unknown patients matching Anna’s description. Not one of them received any unknown deceased bodies any time after the train wreck. He had contacted all the rescue authorities, with no luck. He had contacted all the morgues and funeral homes in the area, without finding Anna.
The only two possibilities that remained for where she might be became obvious to him as he considered the situation. Either she was still out in the bayou, probably dead, and likely consumed by the wildlife in the area, which was horrendous to think about. Or she had gone with someone else after the wreck, and had not contacted her family to let them know where she was. Maybe amnesia kept her from even remembering who she was, or who to contact at home.
Every day, Matt had called Anna’s aunt and uncle, and they still had not heard from her. The last time he talked with them they were frantic, and getting very agitated that they had no answers regarding her whereabouts. So he was not surprised when they announced that they were coming to Mobile that afternoon to get some answers in person. He had told them to call him when they got to town, and just as he looked at the phone it rang.
“Hello, this is Anna’s aunt,” he was told. “We are in the lobby of your hotel.”
“I’ll be right down,” Matt answered. He was a little apprehensive about what they could find out that he had not, but he was certainly willing to let them try. He had a headache from thinking too hard, and it was still early in the afternoon.
Surprisingly, they did not go to the police or Coast Guard first, but instead stopped by a church.
“We know the pastor here, and we want him to be praying,” they explained. “You can wait in the car, Matt, or come in with us. It’s up to you.”
“I’ll come in,” he was quick to tell them.
Inside, they went to the church office and Matt was introduced to an elderly minister. “This is Pastor Frank Radcliff,” Anna’s uncle told him. “And Pastor Frank, this is our daughter’s friend, Matt Waters.”
“Glad to meet you, son,” the minister said, shaking his hand. They exchanged a few greetings all around, then the pastor asked what he could do for them.
“Pastor Frank,” Anna’s uncle explained, “our daughter, Anna, was on the train that derailed last week, along with her boyfriend Jackson, and Matt here. Jackson was killed in the accident, and his funeral is tomorrow afternoon in New Orleans. Please be praying for comfort for his family. This is hard on them, even though they are all Christians. Fortunately Matt escaped injury, for which we are very grateful.”
“What about Anna?” the pastor inquired gently when Anna’s uncle did not continue.
“She’s missing,” Anna’s aunt told him tearfully. “She hasn’t been seen since just before the wreck. She may be dead, or she may not. We just want some answers.”
“I believe I can pray for more than just answers,” the pastor explained. “I believe it would be fair to pray for her safe return to you. And I believe it would be fair to pray for peace no matter the outcome. Our Lord is the Prince of Peace, and He will comfort you in this dark valley. Don’t give up hope, but look upward, for our redeemer liveth.”
“Amen,” Anna’s aunt answered.
“Amen,” echoed Anna’s uncle.
“Amen,” Matt said, but he didn’t know why, nor really even knew what it meant. It just seemed like the right thing to say at the time.
“I will pray for your daughter, Anna,” the pastor told them. “And I will put her name on our prayer chain, so that she will be prayed for around the clock. We want her to be safe. We want her to be found. And we want you to have peace regardless of the outcome. And we will pray for comfort for Jackson’s family. Is there anything else you need?”
“No, we can’t stay here too long. We are headed to the Coast Guard station, and the police headquarters, then probably back home to New Orleans, since the funeral is tomorrow,” they explained.
“Thank you for stopping by. It was great to see you again, and it was nice to meet you Matt. I pray that the Lord will keep you safe in your travels.” The pastor said this last statement while looking directly at Matt. Matt grew a little uncomfortable under the pastor’s intense gaze, and started to make a joke but decided against it.
“Thank you, Pastor Frank,” they told him. “Make plans to stay with us again on your next visit to the New Orleans area.”
“You can count on it,” the pastor agreed.
Stops at the Coast Guard station and the police headquarters did not take too long. No new information was forthcoming regarding Anna’s whereabouts. Both groups agreed to keep her on their missing persons list. But at the same time, neither group gave them much hope of finding her alive at this point, so Matt got the impression that Anna was no longer their top priority. He didn’t know if she ever really had been, but he didn’t want to think badly of the authorities.
“Now what do we do?” Matt asked dejectedly, as they got back in the car after the police station.
“We keep praying, for one thing, and we don’t give up hope,” Anna’s aunt answered, more to herself than to Matt.
“I keep telling myself that maybe she left the accident with someone else on the train, then didn’t know who she was due to amnesia,” he told them.
“That is possible,” Anna’s uncle agreed. “Or maybe she can’t contact us, in a coma, or something horrific.”
“I checked all the hospitals in this area, and she is definitely not in any of them,” Matt knew.
Anna aunt said, “Well, maybe she will be soon. I feel like she’s still alive. I don’t know why I feel that way, but I just know she has to be. My little Anna is too much a part of me to just leave without me knowing.”
Matt agreed with the sentiment, “I’ve lost Jackson. If Anna were still here I would at least feel like I had someone left.”
“Matt, you still have your family. You still have your other friends. You still have us. Don’t give up hope, even if Anna is not found. But like I said, I feel in my heart that Anna will be found when the Lord is ready for us to find her.”
“Yes, Mrs. Thibodeaux. I hear you. I wish it was as easy for me to keep hope as it is for you. You must have more faith than me.”
“Not more faith, my son, but faith in The Son,” she said, pointing upwards. “We are headed home to New Orleans this evening. You can come with us, if you want. Jackson’s funeral is tomorrow.”
“Thanks. I guess I hadn’t thought about how I was going to get back to New Orleans,” he said. “My car is still at the train station there, and I’ve been taking taxi’s around town here in Mobile.”
“You are welcome to come with us,” she told him. “We have an extra room at home you can stay in tonight, if you want to.”
He thought about it for a moment. “I would appreciate the ride back to the train station to get my car, then I’ll probably just go to my apartment. It’ll be late when we get back, and I’ll need to find some decent clothes for tomorrow.”
“Whatever you think, just know that you’re always welcome.”
“Thanks. We do need to stop by the hotel so I can check out, and collect the few belongings that I have there, not that its much.”