CROSSLAKE -- Colleen Dalquist was in a hurry.
The Pillager woman was finishing last-minute matters at her Camp Ripley job and getting ready to leave town to watch her two boys play high school football in the Fargodome. It was an exciting time.
She scrambled around her cubicle and threw her jacket on ready to leave when the telephone rang. Dalquist figured she better answer it. It was her daughter's roommate.
"Have you talked to Erika?" the roommate asked Dalquist about her daughter.
It was at this moment -- 14 1/2 months ago -- that Dalquist's world crashed and would never be the same.
Speaking to a group for the first time Thursday, Dalquist talked about the tragic story of her daughter who disappeared from downtown Brainerd on Oct. 30, 2002, and has not yet been found. Dalquist addressed a group of pastors at Crosslake Lutheran Church during the Heartland Conference of the Northeastern Synod.
As a mother, Dalquist said she knew from the moment she talked with her daughter's roommate on the telephone that day that Erika was dead.
Dalquist and her husband, Duane, went to file a missing person report with the Brainerd Police Department.
"We left feeling blown off," said Dalquist. "They said she was an adult and they wander off all the time."
This was the only time Dalquist said she was upset with the police department. She said the officers have been great to her family since, providing details of the investigation, as well as emotional support.
Dalquist said they had so many unanswered questions, such as why did Erika disappear. She said they needed help and the church was the best place to start. She and her husband sat down with Pastor Kathy Ingbritsen of First Lutheran Church in Pillager and told her the news.
Ingbritsen said she was in shock. She provided support for the Dalquist family and the congregation pulled together to pray and help the family. Dalquist said the next day the family was overwhelmed by the emotional and spiritual support they received.
"I don't remember parts of the next few days," said Dalquist. "The pastor did a good job with keeping the congregation up with the progress of the investigation. I then realized what a burden I put on her."
Since the disappearance of her daughter, many of Dalquist's questions remain. She said she needs to know the answers but is scared of what those answers may be.
In the early stages of the tragedy, Dalquist said she needed to know that God was with her daughter. She said Erika hated to be alone.
"We had to face many ugly thoughts," said Dalquist. "How much physical pain did she endure? How terrified was she? I hope it was quick and she didn't suffer."
Dalquist has accepted that her daughter is in heaven and that they will see her again.
Law enforcement officials have said it is unlikely that Erika is alive. Investigators began searching for Erika in the Virginia Mine Pit Lake near Trommald last January, based on a tip from a suspect in the case.
Officers then charged the suspect, 24-year-old William Myears, with second-degree manslaughter in connection with Erika's disappearance. Myears was later released and the charges were dropped.
Dalquist said she has thought about having a memorial service for Erika. She said the family wants to move on but she doesn't know if they are emotionally ready to do so.
Dalquist also shared with the pastors how organizations have helped. The theme of the conference was how churches can help families of abductions, help families of missing children and address violence.
Dalquist said Crow Wing County Victim Services, the Jacob Wetterling Foundation, the Brainerd Police Department and the Crow Wing County Sheriff's Department have been great to her and her family.
She said Parents of Murdered Children started a satellite office in Brainerd. She said she has not been able to attend one of the meetings there yet, but would like to when she is ready.
Pastor Mark Anderson of Crosslake Lutheran Church briefly talked about the recent disappearance of Dru Sjodin of Pequot Lakes. Sjodin, a student at the University of North Dakota, disappeared Nov. 22 from a shopping mall parking lot in Grand Forks, N.D.
Anderson said this is a parent's worst nightmare. He said he does not know how Sjodin's parents persevere. He said they have received wonderful support from all around the world.
"We (pastors) don't know what to do to help," he said. "I'm not sure if we can swim in this unknown territory, but we are here ... We offer ministry."
A few pastors said at the conference that they have helped families in this type of situation by controlling rumors and supporting the family.
At the end of the conference, Dalquist said in an interview that even though she was nervous about talking before a group she was glad she talked about the experience to the group of pastors.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.