Silent mass disaster: Day dedicated to NC families with missing loved ones

DURHAM, N.C. — Friday is Missing Persons Awareness Day, as proclaimed by North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been reported missing across the U.S. in what’s been called a silent mass disaster. Now, for the first time in North Carolina, there will be a day dedicated to helping families with missing loved ones.

The State Bureau of Investigation and RTI International, a nonprofit research institute in Durham, are hosting “Missing in North Carolina Day” to connect families, law enforcement, the medical examiner’s office and various agencies working to find missing loved ones.

“So the goal of this event is to really have one dedicated time with all pertinent stakeholders here that are able to help each other and help the families navigate exactly what is needed to make each of these missing persons cases as robust as possible,” said Donia Slack, a senior director at RTI.

Gov. Cooper said there are 1,800 missing people in North Carolina, including 800 children. There are also at least 148 unidentified bodies in North Carolina.

Slack told Channel 9′s Genevieve Curtis they expect 50 to 100 families to attend the event Friday, where they will get a chance to bring medical records, photos, and give DNA which can be used to identify people through forensic genealogy databases.

“It’s an opportunity to be able to get answers directly from law enforcement, talk to the medical examiner about some of the processes involved in identifying some of the unidentified remains,” Slack said.

Families can also file new cases.

There are challenges and gaps in nationwide systems when it comes to sharing missing persons cases, connecting unidentified remains, and the variety of ways reports for missing adults are handled. Slack said these events can help families navigate through some of that.

“Because adult cases are a little bit more challenging, that’s why these days are really important because you do have that interaction with law enforcement,” she said.

The event, which is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday in Durham, is open to anyone looking for help finding a loved one. It’s at RTI’s Holden Building at 3040 E Cornwallis Road, RTP, NC 27709. Pre-registration is required.

It’s recommended that you bring the following:

  • Two biological relatives of the missing person to provide DNA samples
  • X-rays, dental and/or medical records, and other identifying documents
  • Identifying photographs, including tattoos
  • Police reports if previously reported
  • A description of the missing person

(WATCH BELOW: CMPD says private citizen entered Allisha Watts into missing persons database)