Drew Dinwiddie and his young daughter were on an outing a few years ago when they briefly became separated.
“I lost sight of her and panicked way more than any parent would have done,” he said. “It was definitely frightening.”
Dinwiddie, 41, knows just how frightening it can be. Twenty-five years ago, his older sister disappeared from Columbia’s Five Points after attending a U2 concert at Williams-Brice Stadium. Dail Dinwiddie, 23 at the time, hasn’t been seen or heard from since.
The mystery has haunted Drew, who was 16 at the time, along with his parents, Dan and Jean, ever since. Sunday will mark the 25th anniversary of her disappearance.
“You never, ever forget it,” he said in a rare interview. “That’s the struggle.”
Dinwiddie sees his sister’s feisty, upbeat personality in his 7-year-old daughter. He also has an 8-year-old son.
For most of their time together, Dinwiddie’s relationship with his only sibling was as the pesky younger brother. Their seven-year age difference meant “we weren’t super-tight growing up,” he said.
But that changed as he got older and her circle of friends started seeing him “not as her little brother but as someone they could talk to,” he said.
The brother and sister were developing a more adult-level relationship just before she disappeared on Sept. 24, 1992. Dail Dinwiddie was last seen near Greene and Harden streets 1 a.m. moments after she rushed out of Jungle Jim’s, a bar that has since closed. She was last seen after 1 a.m.
Dealing with her disappearance was “surreal” at first but soon turned serious, Dinwiddie said.
His parents “shielded me in public but were forthcoming with information in private” about the investigation into what happened, he said. Drew’s parents declined a request to be interviewed by The State, instead issuing a statement on Tuesday asking for people with information to step forward.
Dan Dinwiddie told The State in 1997 that he and his wife learned to cope with their daughter’s absence by letting Drew live his own life. But at their insistence, he carried a pager and cell phone for months afterward so he could contact them immediately and call police for help should he encounter trouble.
In 2005, the family considered moving from their two-story home to a one-story around the corner in the Forest Hills neighborhood, Drew Dinwiddie said. His parents decided to make the move, but it was difficult.
“The discussion was what if they moved and she returned and didn’t know where to go,” he said. “The fear was she wouldn’t find us.”
Today, the family still presses to find his sister, he said.
“We want answers worse than anything,” he said. “We haven’t forgotten about Dail and won’t.”
Tim Flach: 803-771-8483