‘I will always be looking for my sons’

Steve
Steve Bartlett
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When Diana Boland thinks about her missing boys coming home, it starts with a call from Adam, the oldest.

“And he’ll say, ‘Hi Mom, it’s me … it’s me, Ad,’ and then it’s just overjoy.”

Boland now goes by her maiden name, but people will remember her as Diana O’Brien, the mother whose three sons were allegedly abducted by their father, Gary O’Brien, on Nov. 9, 1996.

During an interview earlier this week, Boland spoke openly about her boys, her ex-husband and her 15-year ordeal.

She is unwavering in her belief that Adam, Trevor and Mitchell —  her only children, ages 14, 11 and four when they were taken away — are alive and will be part of her life again.

“I’m looking forward to being a grandma,” she says with a confident smile.

Ask her why she thinks none of her sons has contacted her, Boland says she gets asked that a lot and has given it much thought.

Her conclusion is that O’Brien took the boys to some sort of religious commune.

“If he’s on that kind of a compound, there’s no computers, no news. That’s the only answer I can possibly come up with.”

Before vanishing with the boys, O’Brien had jerry-rigged two 400-pound propane tanks to explode at the family’s Torbay home. (The couple had separated and Boland was then living in Mount Pearl.)

The engine assembly of his 1989 Ford Tempo was found in the waters off Red Head Cliff, near Flatrock, 11 months after the disappearance.

Boland has said rigging the propane tanks and sending the car over the cliff were done to mislead the police.

She says O’Brien was a resourceful, intelligent man and she knows what he’s capable of doing.

That’s why she doesn’t put the idea of the religious compound past him. She feels he’d look for such a place and be content to stay there.

“Gary doesn’t have to be in touch with the outside world at all.”

Boland said O’Brien had control over the boys and they would have done what he wanted.

She’s also convinced people close to her ex have information about the disappearance and her sons.

•••

Boland’s life was in ruins when her boys were taken from her. She says she shut the world out.

 “I was totally numb, totally numb. I didn’t care about anything or anyone.”

The healing took years.

She says she had to learn to cope or die.

The first step was reaching out, and Boland says that wasn’t easy.

She sought professional help, and realized she had to release the bitterness.

 “It was eating me up. I had to let go of the guilt of not being there to protect my sons, and then I had to let Gary O’Brien own it — turn it over to him. He’s the person responsible for ruining the lives of his children and ruining my life. Accept it Gary, you’ve done it.”

Organizations focused on missing children have played a role in her recovery. Boland got involved, and remains active, in a number of them.

“Any society out there who would help me and take me by the hand and lead me through this, I accept. I accept.”

She also gets the benefit of assisting people who’ve experienced similar trauma.

“It’s mostly with other parents, who are searching parents like myself. We cry with each and hold one another. … That’s very helpful to me as a searching parent, to be in touch with someone who is feeling what I’m feeling.”

Christy Dzikowicz is the director of missingkids.ca, a program of the Canadian Centre for Child Protection.

Boland was part of the organization’s launch in May and has “done a lot,” Dzikowicz says.

“Because we see in her the kind of hope and resilience that we continue to fight for. It just gives us such encouragement to see a mom who could live through that type of tragedy, who could be so strong and believe so much that she’s going to get those answers.”

Boland says the desire to see her sons again keeps her focused.

“In order to do that, I have to stay healthy in body, soul and mind, so I had to learn how to do that.”

•••

Boland recently finished an interior design course and works for a flooring company. She appears to be moving forward and says she’s able to laugh and enjoy life.

“I feel fine now. I’m great now. I’m back to where I was before (the abduction).”

Still, she wants her boys — and hopefully her boys’ children — in the next stage of her life.

Boland says while some may think it’s time to put it to rest, that’s not going to happen.

“Once you’re a parent, you will be one until the day you die, and no matter what could happen in my life I will always be looking for my sons.”

Dzikowicz suggests people who ask why Boland hasn’t moved past that haven’t walked in her shoes.

Though she’s living a healthy, happy life, in many ways Boland doesn’t get to move on, she explained.

“There’s a balance that had to be struck there and I think that’s something that’s she’s been able to do really well, with some of the wonderful people she has in her life.”

Boland prays for her sons every morning and evening. She claims she’s not a religious person, but she did have a spiritual encounter that she gathers strength from.

She prefers not to share the details, saying, “It’s not something that everybody would understand.”

She keeps her boys’ personal belongings as well as media coverage of their disappearance, and other items, in a trunk at her home.

She says when Adam, Trevor and Mitchell return, she wants to show them the truth and then lead a life that doesn’t dwell on the past.

For now, she admits opening the trunk is difficult.

“From time to time I like to go down there and I like to feel (their presence). And yeah, I cry. But you know? That’s good. There’s nothing wrong with that. That’s just getting in touch with yourself and who you really are as a parent.”

•••

In Boland’s vision of her sons’ return, what happens after Adam’s phone call takes place at the airport.

“And I see Gary O’Brien coming in handcuffs and the police are with him.”

There’s been a warrant out for O’Brien’s arrest since he disappeared.

Police agencies have received hundreds of tips and the story was covered by the high-profile U.S. TV programs “American’s Most Wanted” and “The Montel Williams Show.”

Police have also offered a $50,000 reward.

New tips still come in from time to time (see sidebar).

Whenever Boland learns the police have received a new lead, she prays it could be the one.

But she’s OK when it doesn’t pan out.

“I have to be. What choice do I have?”

Dzikowicz thinks someone must know something about what happened.

“And they, maybe, are at the right time in their life to come forward and share that and say, ‘Enough is enough, I need to give this woman some information that’s going to help or I need to give the police some information that’s going to help bring some answers.’ ”

Boland suggests the public can help, too.

“Have hope like me,” she says. “Be positive like me. I take a lot of strength in staying positive and I do believe in miracles happening, and I believe I’m due one.”

sbartlett@thetelegram.com

Twitter: bartlett_steve

 

Organizations: Canadian Centre

Geographic location: Torbay, Mount Pearl, Flatrock U.S.

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Comments

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Recent comments

  • LILLIAN SMITH
    May 26, 2013 - 01:44

    Diana I think of you often, I remember when your precious boys were taken it was 4 weeks before we came to Calgary & all the way driving from Nfld to Calgary I kept looking to see if I could see your boys, my heart was broke for you...never give up one day your boys will come home...please send me a pic of the boys father & I will keep looking in this part of Canada ....God Bless ...Hugs...xo

  • Mary Murphy-Watch
    November 13, 2011 - 20:23

    I sure hope your boy's come home to you soon. May God bless you and answers your prayers. You are a very strong lady.

  • Jen B
    November 10, 2011 - 18:20

    I often think of you Diana and what you have had to deal with. You are in my prayers and I know in my heart that one day (hopefully sooner rather than later) you are reunited with your three sons! Good Luck and God Bless.

  • Geraldine
    November 09, 2011 - 13:35

    Diana, God IS watching over you - and your children. Just keep praying. Time heals all things.

  • Malafat
    November 07, 2011 - 03:29

    May God help you to search, but then I ask myself why did God let your children be taken away.

  • Jill Public
    November 06, 2011 - 09:10

    Thinking of you Dianna. You are a tremendous woman. I'm so glad you've found a way to be happy in the midst of all this.

  • Tracey
    November 06, 2011 - 06:52

    Never give up hope. A mom can sense things whether it be good or bad in her heart about her children. I hope that one day you can be reunite with your boys! God Bless and keep hope.

  • Katy
    November 05, 2011 - 19:48

    Every time a missing person is found - a child reaches out on Facebook, an ex-husband is brought up on charges, a father and his abducted child are reunited - I think of Diana and her three boys. I hope that somewhere Gary is finally feeling the remorse he should have felt years ago, and is finally telling the boys the truth they should have heard then. I hope that one of his trusted confidantes is finally realizing the boys have suffered enough. I hope that someone finally picks up the telephone and calls police.

  • Colin
    November 05, 2011 - 14:08

    Never give up searching. someday soon your boys will find their way home. God bless you, Diana!

  • Mary Ann
    November 05, 2011 - 09:53

    I remember sadly about these missing children. Maybe there should be more reminders in the media throughout North America. I pray these boys read this article in The Telegram and get in touch with their Mom soon. They need their Mom and she needs them and she needs to know they are alive and well. She needs answers. May you keep strong Diana!

  • SM
    November 05, 2011 - 09:14

    So sad, it was only the other day i thought of this women and these three boys. Brings tears to my eyes. I hope someday you do get reunited again. praying for you to get the information you need to lead you to your boys.

  • Elizabeth
    November 05, 2011 - 08:57

    My God help you in your search, praying you will get your answers someday soon.

    • Linda Murphy
      November 05, 2011 - 19:30

      Diana, I think of you often and feel in my heart your children are ok, God Bless you and never give up hope,