BCSD Teacher Turns Trauma into Resilience
Central Primary School intervention specialist Alison Duiker has only faint memories of the mother who disappeared when she was 5.
Years of trauma inflicted by her biological father followed. He told Alison and her younger brother that their mother ran away with another man, but Alison never believed that.
For years she didn’t talk about her mother or her childhood, worried what other people would think of her.
Then she decided to write a book about it as a tribute to her mother but also as way to help other people cope with trauma.
The 500-page book, “A Daughter’s Journey,” was released Feb. 1. Alison started writing it only a year before, marking 40 years since her mother, Lonene Ray Rogers, disappeared.
Although it stemmed from tragedy, the book is a story of resilience.
“I finally came to a point, that 40th year anniversary was just like a magical moment where I thought, ‘You know what? I have to look at this differently and I have to think of the people I could help by telling my story.’” she said.
It chronicles not only Alison’s own resilience but that of her mother and grandmother as well.
“I kind of reflected on just my story of resilience, that resilience that my mother had to have being a deaf woman as well and being in a relationship that was very unhealthy and all the decisions that she had to make,” she said.
The book started when an author who was writing a book about missing person cases contacted Alison to do an interview. After talking to the writer, Alison decided she wanted to pen her own book about the case, her mom and how it’s affected her.
The words poured out.
“It was so therapeutic,” Alison said. “It just came.”
Her mother was born deaf in Youngstown at a time when children with special needs were sent off to special schools. But her grandmother refused to send her daughter to the closest school for the deaf, located in Pittsburgh, insisting that the family, and her daughter’s school, would provide for Lonene’s needs.
The book tells “that story of resilience and her overcoming a whole entire community, telling her she’s doing the wrong thing, but her heart knowing she wasn’t and following that gut instinct,” Alison said.
Her mother’s journey, navigating life as a deaf woman who didn’t want others to see her as a person with disabilities, is also key.
The book also details Alison’s own story.
Lonene was trying to leave her husband when she disappeared from where the family was living in Erie, Pa. Police have found no evidence of foul play, but everyone who knew Lonene knows she wouldn’t run off and leave her children. Alison believes her mother is dead.
Her father was violent and Alison and her brother were regularly in and out of foster care, but they were always returned to their father. When Alison was 14, her school guidance counselor adopted her.
“In the book I talk about all of the teachers along the way who helped me,” she said.
School was her refuge and the only place she received positive attention.
“I came to school and it was a different life. I was a different person,” Alison said.
She excelled in both sports and the classroom, always putting her all into school.
“I needed that positive encouragement,” she said.
That’s why she became a teacher.
“The only reason why I’m here and not — either didn’t survive or an absolute mess — is because of the teachers that every single year took an interest in me and gave me a reason to strive for something positive instead of getting sucked into the negative,” she said.
Writing the book was a way for Alison to renew interest in her mother’s cold case too.
Alison has been interviewed by multiple media outlets and participated in podcasts, detailing her story. She also started a Facebook group, Justice for Lonene, that’s drawn members from all over the world
“I just felt like this duty to tell her story and to have her story known,” she said.
She’s already working on a second book about the case, reviewing what’s happened since the first book’s release. This summer, she plans to begin work on a series of children’s books about resilience and social-emotional skills too. She's writing them with her own three children.
Earlier this year, the Facebook group led to a tip for a location in the woods and she found volunteers who brought cadaver dogs to the location. The dogs hit on a couple of spots and the area is being excavated by volunteers.
“It’s a community of people saying, ‘We’ll help,’” she said.
Alison has started doing speaking engagements about resilience.
“I tell my story because I have to say what I rose from,” she said. “My motto is ‘Rewrite Your Story’ and I say it over and over and over again. The fact is, sometimes we have no control over the story we’re handed or the story that we’re living. But we do have control over what we choose to do with it.”
Through the trauma she’s endured, Alison has the opportunity to use her experience to help others deal with their emotional scars.
“I want people to hear the depth of ugliness that I’ve been through so they can see that they can come out on the other side too,” Alison said.