TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WFLA) — The 24th annual Missing Children’s Day ceremony brought people from across Florida outside the state’s capitol on Monday.
More than 25,000 incidents of missing children were reported to Florida law enforcement agencies last year.
Monday marks a moment to remember those that are still missing, including a Clearwater boy who disappeared 22 years ago.
“We’re still making strides to find those children no matter if they’ve grown up to 22 years old or 30 years old, they may be out there,” Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Mark Glass said.
Zachary Bernhardt is one of those children who would be 30 years old today. He was only 8 years old when he vanished from an apartment complex in Clearwater. Sunday marked twenty-two years since his disappearance.
“With it being 9/11 just yesterday, it’s been 22 years. It’s been very difficult” said Billie-Joe Jimenez, Bernhardt’s aunt.
Clearwater police say Zachary’s mother called on Sept. 11, 2000, to report him missing just before 5 a.m..
“Emotionally it’s taken a toll on our entire family,” Jimenez said.
Bernhardt’s family has attended the ceremony for over two decades and say they still haven’t lost hope.
“We love him. We miss him. We want him to come home. We’re still here. We’re still actively looking for you. We’ve never given up hope and we never will and he will come home.” Jimenez said.
There were 10 Amber Alerts issued this year and Zachary currently has the state’s longest-running Amber Alert.
“When you hear those alerts in your area please take a look at them don’t shut that alert off on your phone. You may just be the one that saves that child,” Glass said.
Bernhardt’s missing person’s case is currently open. If you know anything about what happened to him call Clearwater police.