Posted: May 16, 2013 11:17 PM by Alex Labat
Updated: May 17, 2013 11:51 AM
This Sunday will mark one year since Mickey Shunick went missing (the family has released a statement which can be read by clicking here). What followed was a massive 83 day effort from both Mickey's family, friends, and the community to not only find Mickey, but to find answers as to what happened to her.
Justice was eventually served in the court room, but answers don't always bring closure, and the Shunicks are still healing.
The images and stories from last summer are still on their minds and in their hearts. They're the images and stories those in Acadiana won't soon forget. Mickey was an anthropology major at UL, and in the months after her disappearance, her face was everywhere from flyers to billboards to social media. But during that search effort, there was one particular face that became the leader of what is now an internationally known campaign to bring Mickey home---Mickey's sister Charlie.
I traveled to Dallas to sit down with Charlie, who, after finding her sister, is now on a mission to find herself.
It was nearly one year ago that the story began: Mickey Shunick went missing the night before her brother's graduation. Now, a year later, Charlie Shunick, the head of the "Find Mickey Campaign," is graduating herself.
Charlie Shunick says, "I'm getting my Masters in Cognitive Neuroscience with a concentration in Neuroscience. It's basically the study of memory, learning, and attention on a neurological basis."
Reflecting on her own memories of last summer isn't always easy for Charlie. As Mickey's older sister, Charlie led the charge. And as the community was gripped by the coverage, of every development, some say along the way, she became Acadiana's big sister.
"It's an honor," Shunick says. "I can't say that I've ever thought of myself as a role model in that sense. It's dumbfounding to think that people have been inspired from things that I did and that my sister was able to do."
A little sister, who is never far from Charlie's thoughts. No matter where you look in Charlie's Dallas home, one can find reminders of Mickey and Acadiana's love and support.
"I look back on some of the things over the summer with...happiness," says Shunick.
.But even in the darkest of times, there were always stories of hope. From school children showing their support with butterflies, even the youngest in Acadiana, were never far from Mickey's story.
Shunick says, "I have T-Charlie, Jack Stansbury shout out to you. I have a picture of us someone drew, I have a calendar one of her friends made, I'm not going to hide it I pretty much took my sisters entire wardrobe."
Two sisters, so close in so many ways that it was sometimes difficult to tell the two apart.
"Everyone would mistake us for the same person, she looked up to me. I dyed my hair blonde, she dyed her hair blonde. All my pets are Spanish, she names her snake a Spanish name. It was always a thing and now it's even more of a thing because I can't be who I am without being Mickey Shunick's sister," says Shunick.
The sisters mirroring each other so much that on the second day of Mickey's disappearance, Lafayette Police had thought they had found their missing girl.
Shunick explains, "These police officers are like 'Hey girl, come here.' So I'm like 'What do they want what's going on here.' They're like, 'Can we see your license?' I immediately knew. I was like, 'You're looking for my sister, we look just alike.' And the officer says, 'Okay, she's your sister? Hey guys, come over here. This is Mickey Shunick's sister she looks like this.' That told us they were looking, they knew what she looked like, and they were really keen on trying to find her."
That search, while successful, opened a family's private struggle to the public. And now, even a year later, those who followed the Shunicks' story are still sending the family their condolences.
"Just treat me like a normal person, not someone who you feel like you need to pity or take care of or try to lift up. The thing that makes it most awkward is when you look at someone and they look at you in the way that you know that they feel bad for you," adds Shunick.
Charlie agreed to speak to me in what she says will be her last interview with the media for the foreseeable future, so that she and her family might be able to finally start focusing on theirs.
Shunick says, "We're just begging for a break at this point. And now, speaking on behalf of my family, the social media team, the entire Mickey Shunick campaign and myself, we just have to beg for peace and privacy. We found Mickey, we try to make people think with a more positive outlook on life. We want people to treat us like normal people, and hopefully we can all move on together from now on."
Finding Mickey hasn't stopped Charlie in her efforts to find other missing people. Sunday night I'll have part two of my one on one with Charlie Shunick, and how, even after finding her sister, she's still searching for others who've gone missing.