Jeanne Baker Guy knows firsthand the trauma of losing her children and fighting to get them back.
By Sloane Wick, Photos by Danelle Sasser
Jeanne Baker Guy had fear in her bones when she saw the strained way her good friend the Rev. John Roof made his way up the staircase to her second-floor apartment. Immediately upon observing him, Guy knew something was wrong.
“He looked like he was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulder,” Guy says. “I didn’t know what to fear at that point, but I feared terrible things.”
Her fear was justified. Instead of greeting her with the usual hug, Roof pulled a letter from his vest pocket that would change Guy’s life. In familiar stiff handwriting, her German ex-husband, Klaus, wrote:
“..the children and I … We are in a place where you’ll never find us.”
Guy collapsed as grief, shock and horror coursed through her body. Roof caught his sobbing friend and held her as she was forced to face her worst fear.
In the summer of 1977, Guy’s ex-husband stole her two children, 6-year-old Ty and 3-year-old Megan, and took them to Germany. The only things she had to hold on to were Klaus’ letter and her unwavering determination to get her kids back. What she went through after that would provide the foundation for her memoir, You’ll Never Find Us, which was published on Aug. 17.
Guy’s first action when she learned her children were gone was to go to the police. However, it quickly became obvious to her that the legal system would not be able to give her the help she needed. The Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act, a federal law that outlines when courts should honor and enforce custody determinations, would not be enacted for another three years.
“The law just was not on our side. They treated it as just a personal situation,” Guy says with a deep sigh.
She knew if she was going to get her children back, she would have to take them back herself. So, she did. On Nov. 22, 1977, after 119 days of separation and countless hours of investigating, Guy overcame the odds and found her children.
“I felt them breathing as I held them close, silently making them promises,” Guy writes in her memoir. “I will never take you for granted, I will care for you, love you, protect you. No one will ever take you from me again.”
Guy, who received her bachelor’s degree in English literature and drama, is an experienced writer. She’s written blogs for years and is on the Board of Directors for the Story Circle Network, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting and empowering women writers.
Guy’s desire to share her story grew over time as she worked vigorously to recover from her trauma. She refined her work through various writers’ workshops, retreats and conferences with other authors. The people in these writing events cheered her on and helped her improve her writing skills.
“If anyone thinks they can write a book alone, I think they’re mistaken,” Guy insists. “You need that support.”
Over several years, Guy collected everything she had saved from the kidnapping and began writing her story. The process was full of painful reminders of the time without her children, but she powered through.
“As long as I let the story fester inside me, there would be no end to the pain,” she says. “But by writing and shedding light on the story…I could know some peace.”
After 15 years of writing, learning and encouragement, Guy’s journey to find peace transformed into her memoir.
Guy’s journey of survival came in two parts: surviving the abduction and recovery of her children and surviving the trauma that came after. “I had to survive. Somehow I found that courage within me every day to get up and make sure that was uppermost in my mind,” Guy says. “You need to get that trauma out. Otherwise it stays stuck.”
She also reached out to her community and the people closest to her for help.
“I had enough family and friends surrounding me [to get through the trauma. They]helped in any and all ways they could.”
Her children, especially Ty, who was old enough to remember being taken, also had to cope. As adults, they both understood and encouraged their mother to write the memoir as her method of survival.
“Both of them said to me, ‘Mom, this is your book,’” Guy says, a note of pride in her voice. “‘We will support you, and we want you to write it.’”
In reading Guy’s writing, her children were able to gain a new understanding of their mother and her struggle. They celebrated the publishing of You’ll Never Find Us with their mother in her Cedar Park home.
“Shit, mom,” Guy remembers her son saying. “I had no idea. I had no idea what you went through.”
Guy survived her trauma by reframing the narrative of what could have been an unresolved kidnapping case. Her life changed with a letter, but she got it back with a book.