The agony of not knowing
What is even more difficult is not knowing the fate of his son, Zachary, who went missing July 23, 2013 — not knowing where he has been for the last eight months, or what happened to him.
It began with Zack driving to Coos County to sell a motorcycle. He sent his family a text message saying he made it safely. He sent another one to a friend he had made the sale and was headed home.
But that’s where communication stopped. He left no known trail from there. If any clues have emerged, investigators with the Coos County Sheriff’s Office aren’t sharing them.
Zack wasn’t due home until 7 p.m., but Myron knew something was wrong well before then.
“Even by 4 p.m., something just didn’t feel right,” he said. “In the pit of my stomach, I knew something wasn’t right.”
His wife shared that premonition. “We didn’t sleep well that night,” she said.
”Zachary planned to return home from Coos County with the man he sold his motorcycle to,” Myron said. “The man was driving back up to Seattle and was supposed to drop Zachary at home in McMinnville, where the title to the motorcycle waited.”
He said Zack was more comfortable with the idea of returning with a friend or relative. He tried to get someone to accompany him, but none of his friends were available and his brother had to work.
When Zack failed to call his 6-year-old son that night, Myron feared the worst. It’s something he would always do if he was going to be late.
“I’m not superstitious,” said Myron, who makes his living as a technical writer. “I like facts and numbers. Yet I’m suddenly plunged into this world where there are these very strong and subjective feelings I can’t shake.
“I don’t believe he’s alive anymore, and it’s pretty miserable. As any detective will tell you, people don’t just disappear. People don’t just disappear.”
There are a number of reasons Zachary’s disappearance is suspicious, Myron said.
First, he left important papers at home, documents he would have needed to start over somewhere else. For another, he suffered from severe asthma, and he left all of his medications at home.
He had just turned 25, and was planning a joint birthday party for himself and his best friend. It was set for Friday, just three days after he disappeared.
“It is out of character for him to just stop planning his best friend’s party,” his father said.
Most of all, Zack would never abandon his family, according to his father.
His mother, Rebecca, who suffers from a neurological disorder, underwent a lengthy surgery before his disappearance. And he would never desert his mother in a time of need, Myron said.
Zachary was Rebecca’s youngest, and he spent the most time with her of all her children.
He served as a friend as well as a son. He helped her around the house and picked up her medications for her. He also helped her care for his grandmother, Dottie, who lived with the family.
“He wasn’t a saint, but he had some really sterling qualities,” his father said. “Part of that was his dedication to the women in his life.”
He was also dedicated to his young son — extremely devoted.
Zack and his son, Lance, lived with Myron and his wife for several years. They were clearly close to each other, Myron said.
“I’m most concerned about Zachary’s son,” Myron said. “I don’t want him to grow up under this shadow of, ‘Did my father desert me?’
“I absolutely do not believe that’s the case. I want to remove that. Of course, I want to find him for myself, but I want to remove that possibility for that little boy.”
Myron said Lance recently declared he wouldn’t be crying for his dad any longer.
“And he hasn’t,” Myron said, “which in its own way is heartrending. He’s saying he’s not going to let it tear him up. He’s going to continue with his life.”
Porter fondly recalls Zachary’s earlier moments with his son.
Lance’s birth changed him in subtle and important ways. His energetic demeanor mellowed, and he reorganized his priorities.
“It touched a part of him that I think very few people got to see,” Myron said. “You could tell the bond that was there. He really spent a lot of time with his son, more than most children get with a father.”
Zachary’s disappearance has also affected his dozens of friends.
His father describes him as charismatic, somewhat feisty and a practical joker. He loved to be around people and cultivated many relationships.
“Zack spent 14 hours a day with that blasted phone in his hand. He’d have thousands of texts a month,” Myron said.
“This has terribly affected his friends. It has really hurt them.”
Beyond that, Myron said it even affects those who hadn’t met Zack. Hearing about his missing son bothers anybody he tells. They want to help, but there is so little they can do.
“It’s curious,” he said, “because sometimes I feel almost remorseful that I have to tell people. I know it’ll make them feel bad. At the same time, you’re sharing a very human moment with someone.”
Friends and family of Zachary set up a Facebook page for him, and people from all over the country have shown their support. People are intrigued by the mystery of his disappearance and disturbed by the unfortunate circumstances with which his loved ones have been left.
Even credit card companies can be sensitive in times of need. When Myron called to explain that the bill payment was two days late because he was distracted after their son had disappeared, the credit card company told him it wouldn’t appear on his credit report.
“When the companies that I consider bloodsuckers have sympathy, it says that we’re all human,” Myron said. “The loss of Zachary is more than our personal loss. It’s the sense that these kinds of things should not happen.”
The Porters recently moved to Beaverton to start fresh. With that and the support from friends, community and even the nation, they are trying their best to move on for Zachary’s sake.
Myron describes continuing as a strange process. There are moments when he might feel happy and free, but Zachary is always in the back of his mind. Then there are horrible moments that he says wash over him like a tidal wave, and he becomes helpless to the feeling.
“It’s indescribable,” he said. “The only people who seem to understand are those who have gone through something similar. You know immediately who they are. You can almost recognize them across a room without saying anything. They know, and you know.”
When your child is missing, everyday things are accompanied by the constant reminder of his absence. Making a sandwich turns into a flood of memories, and getting some sleep is certainly out of the question.
He said, “There was a period where I couldn’t do anything without this little inner voice saying, ‘Your son is dead,’ and it became maddening.
“You want to do anything except think of this, but every second or minute or two, the voice. It’s enraging.”
Myron said healing hasn’t begun. Moving on is much different from healing, he said.
He has recovered in the sense that he knows he must go on with his life, but something is always missing. “It is as if there is something that has been cut out of you,” he said.
“It doesn’t get filled. It’s just an empty spot. It’s never going to be there again, and it was part of you,” he said.
“It’s like missing a limb or an organ. It’s gone. And you notice it all the time.”
When Myron thinks back on Zachary’s life, what he remembers most is laughter.
He always had a sense of humor that drew many people to him, and he loved to play pranks. Despite his large build as an adult, he was a scrawny kid who made up for it with attitude. He always stood up for himself and the people he loved.
The family moved to Siberia in Russia a month before Zachary turned 6. Rebecca made the move first to gather with other people from indigenous cultures.
She persuaded her husband to come with their three sons and make a home in Yakutsk, where Myron taught English for two years.
Zachary had a hard time in the beginning, refusing to eat and worrying his parents. But he soon developed an aptitude for numbers. Even as a 6-year-old, he always knew the exact exchange rate.
He was always correct. Myron said they didn’t bother to check anymore. They just asked him.
Zack was also quite talented kinesthetically, mastering the position for playing violin the first time he picked one up and juggling with one hand on the first try.
He was also fascinated by cars and engineering. He liked to disassemble things, mostly cars, and put them together again.
Myron recalls once catching a teenage Zack staring off into space, deep in thought.
“That’s the age you start to get suspicious about what’s going on in his head,” Myron said. “Is it physical, drugs, emotions? And he said, ‘I’m thinking about bearings, Dad. I think I know how to make a perfect ball bearing.’”
It was his love of vehicles and exchange that sent him down the coast that fateful day.
For Myron, for Rebecca and for their family and friends, the grieving period is far from over.
In fact, it hasn’t really even begun. For that, they need answers to what remains so far nothing more than a maddening mystery.
Anyone with potential leads, no matter how remote or slight, is asked to call the Coos County Sheriff’s Office at 541-396-2016 or McMinnville Police Department at 503-434-7307.