The angelic, baby-toothed smiling face of Perth toddler Jimmy O’Reilly stopped WA today, flooding people’s hearts and minds — as well as social media feeds — as they prayed his family’s nightmare would soon be over.
It wasn’t just the small, tight-knit surfing community of Yallingup that came to a standstill, but all of WA held its breath waiting for news on Jimmy, as anyone near a screen could not avoid seeing his face.
But the State’s caring nature also came to the fore, with the frantic search for a little boy lost triggering an outpouring of support and prayers from thousands of people.
The WA Police Force’s post about Jimmy was dramatic: “URGENT — PLEASE SHARE — Police are searching for a missing three-year-old boy.”
And people took notice, forwarding the cry-for-help across any social media platform they could find. By 5pm it had been shared 38,000 times and attracted almost 2000 comments.
Well-wishes came in thick and fast, much like the rain that fell across the South West and Perth yesterday, as the hours continued to tick by without news from when the three-year-old wandered off at around 7.30am.
“I can’t imagine what his parents are going through,” Nola Marriott commented on the post.
“It’s quite upsetting when anyone goes missing, but when it’s someone so young they don’t have the skills of an adult.”
Many offered to drop everything to go help in the South West search.
“My daughter and I are an hour away and ready to go if you need searchers,” Terri Bartels commented.
Police acknowledged the “significant” response from the community, but cautioned the public not to compromise evidence of where James had been in their desperate attempts to help.
A full incident command team, including local officers, tracker dogs, the mounted section, police helicopter, State Emergency Services volunteers and local residents, were last night still combing vast swathes of bushland near the family’s Airbnb accommodation.