Social media played a critical role in the return of a missing teen to his family last week.
After the Mesa Police department issued a missing persons alert on Dec. 25 about Jophrey Cord of Mesa, 13, news spread across the Internet. He had last been seen on Dec. 23 and the following morning his family found a note stating that he was running away and it would be better this way.
On Dec. 27, Heather Cohen in Manhattan, one of Cord’s cousins, started a “Help Find Jophrey Cord” Facebook page; the following day it had more than 400 members, many who said they would post the information on their own Facebook pages. Cohen posted a note on the local CBS station page and more than 11,000 people shared it. Even model Christie Brinkley, a family friend, posted the “missing” poster on her Facebook page, where more than 9,000 people shared it.
“It was an overwhelming and very emotional response,” Cohen said. “I really can’t thank people enough for helping. Facebook is the modern-day version of going door to door and posting fliers.”
On Friday morning, about 70 people, including many members of Temple Emanuel of Tempe, where the family belongs, joined in search efforts near Cord’s home. The following day, about 150 people participated in a search led by the Superstition Search and Rescue Team.
“The community’s support of the Cord-Brazeal family was overwhelming,” Rabbi Dean Shapiro of Temple Emanuel said in an email. “Scores of us turned out, two days in a row, to search for Jophrey. Others canvassed their neighborhoods; everyone felt concern and love for one of our own. All parents know the fear of being separated from our kids. Last week, each one of us felt like Jophrey’s own parent, and came together to find him and support his family. All of us at Temple Emanuel are all overjoyed at his safe return.”
“It was an amazing outreach of support and love,” said Dr. Jim Cord, one of Jophrey’s fathers, both from people he knew and from those beyond his circle his friends.
He said he was floored by all the people who offered their time and energies in a variety of ways – from reposting the information on Facebook to hanging fliers to driving across town to walk in the open desert to search for a boy they didn’t know.
“People who genuinely cared about society and each other,” he said. “It was incredible.”
Friday evening at Temple Emanuel, candles were distributed to each person during the synagogue’s Shabbat service. “Some told me they lit them in their window to give Jophrey a beacon home,” said Shapiro. “Others lit them on their table, to keep hope in their hearts.”
On Saturday night, a woman stopped at a Circle K in Apache Junction about 15 miles away from Jophrey’s home and recognized Jophrey from a Facebook post, according to Cord. She contacted the police and posted a note on Facebook reporting that she thought she may have seen Jophrey. By the time the police arrived, Jophrey had left.
One of Cord’s friends saw this woman’s post on Facebook and called him; he and other family members immediately headed out to the Circle K, where they asked to review the store’s security camera footage.
The clerk didn’t have access to the tapes and the manager was out of town so the assistant manager came in, even though she needed to be at work at 3 a.m. the next morning. They reviewed the video: Without a doubt, it was Jophrey.
After driving around the area, family members found Jophrey, asleep under a bench inside a post office.
“Modern mega-cities like Phoenix can make us feel so alone,” Shapiro said. “Trying times like this – and it’s happy ending – remind us of our shared humanity.”