PORTLAND, Ore. – The first time Rhonda Carroll came to Rocky Butte, she was barely able to stand at the place where her 16-year-old son, Austin Fisher, slipped and fell 80 feet to his death.
Since then, she's returned to grieve but also to see the signs of love Austin's friends and family left at the site to remember him.
"I had a big banner with his picture," she said by phone from her home in Woodland, Wash. on Tuesday. "His name and his birth date and death date, and everybody signed it and left little messages on it. There's flowers up there. And just friends and family take things up there. One girl left her jersey up there."
But those dozens of notes, flowers and the basketball he played with and left in his memory are now missing and the boy's family wants them back.
For the family, it felt like a kick in the stomach and a cruel blow to the mother who said she's needed that place to get through the last 22 months and two days since her son died.
"It's heartbreaking," Carroll said. "My heart falls to my feet just wondering why somebody would do that. Does it bother somebody that bad?"
Carroll said she was just up on Rocky Butte on Sunday. She saw plenty of trash, plastic cups and wrappers but no signs of her son's memorial.
"It means a lot to me. I guess it's probably the same thing as having a gravesite in a cemetery that people can go visit and feel like that's where he's at," she said.
The Oregon Department of Transportation manages the land that sits next to Interstate 205 but told Austin's family it did not have anything to do with moving the memorial.
Carroll just doesn't understand why someone would steal one of the only ways a mother has to remember her son.
"Very cruel. I mean to me it's like going to a cemetery and knocking over people's headstones," she said.
Carroll said she just wants those items back. If someone has a problem with them being there, she won't put them back. But for her, each note, flower and basketball carries a lot of meaning.
Austin's family contacted KATU News about what happened to the memorial. If there's something you want us to know about, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.