Jannel Rap is on the road again, singing her sister home.
The songwriter was on her way from Minneapolis to Mason City, Iowa, in a rental car on Monday.
Then to Sioux Falls, and then Lincoln before continuing to Washington, D.C., and New Jersey and Nashville and Birmingham and beyond.
She has been doing this every autumn for nearly a decade now, a siren song for the missing she calls the Squeaky Wheel Tour.
It’s her way of channeling the grief of not knowing, of reaching out to the families of the hundreds of others who have vanished, the way her sister Gina Bos did.
The 40-year-old mother of three had played at open mic night at Duggan’s Pub on Oct. 17, 2000, and then walked to her car and put her guitar in the trunk.
The car was there on 11th Street when her family went looking, the trunk ajar, but no Gina.
Her face flashed on the HuskerVision screen the following Saturday, fine-boned and smiling, and police investigated hundreds of leads.
Every time a body was found in the months that followed, and, later, every time bones were discovered, Jannel and her family held their breath.
“We’re still talking to law enforcement,” said Jannel, who lives and works in Los Angeles. “It’s not a big wide-open book because there’s not a lot coming in.”
Jannel had been at North Central University in Minneapolis Monday, in its chapel, filled with students.
She told her story.
Her goal was to have every one of those students, 1,000 in all, take a flier before they left, spread the word about missing people, hopefully help find them.
Jacob Wetterling’s face was on the flier, and his parents were there. Their son was 11 when a masked stranger abducted him while he was riding bikes with his brother and a friend in their small Minnesota town.
Patty Wetterling is chairwoman of the board for the Center for Missing and Exploited Children and she’s run for Congress twice. She last saw her son 25 years ago, on Oct. 22, 1989.
Jannel remembers the first time she met Patty. Gina had been gone two years, Jacob nearly 14.
“I remember thinking, that’s not going to be me," Jannel said. "There’s no way that’s going to be me."
Now it is her.
“Fourteen years, it just hit me really strong. That’s a lifetime.”
Jannel thought seriously about abandoning the tour in 2013, the financial drain of the travel, the emotional energy it required.
“I had become the poster child for people who had lost everything," she said. "I didn’t know if I should keep doing this.”
The daughter of a traveling preacher, she posed a question to God:
“Is this really valuable? You need to show me, like an arrow pointing directly at something.”
A few weeks later she turned on her television: Three young women kept prisoner in Ohio for more than a decade by a former school bus driver had been found.
“We had been praying for them for years.”
Jannel asked God for more help: Show me the money.
She saw another arrow: Two musicians in New Jersey tracked her down after watching a video on the Squeaky Wheel Tour site. The young women raised $3,500 and gave it to Jannel, not enough to pay for another tour, but enough to keep her going.
They also put her in touch with Nancy Bird, whose husband, David, a Wall Street Journal reporter, went out for an afternoon walk last January and never returned.
Jannel and the Squeaky Wheel Tour will be in Asbury Park, New Jersey, on Oct. 28. Nancy Bird will speak.
Jannel will play her music.
And this winter they will be members of a newly formed support group for families of the lost.
They will conduct their first meeting via Skype, because the families are everywhere.
“There are all kinds of ripples that happen to families,” Jannel said.
“They lose their finances, they lose their health, they lose their other loved ones because they’re focusing all their attention on the person who is gone.”
They grieve, she said, but it’s not the same kind of grief.
It’s hard on their bodies, said Jannel, who has watched it now for nearly 14 years. At each tour stop, when they call attention to local missing people, their mothers come, their fathers, brothers and sisters, their spouses.
She’s witnessed their physical decline.
“I’ll be in a room filled with relatives of the missing and literally half of them are limping, or in a wheelchair," she said. "I think it’s from the weight of waiting.”