'You are our superhero': Parents plead for return of missing son

Jennifer and Rod O'Brien, parents of five-year-old Nathan O'Brien, stand at a press conference at...

Jennifer and Rod O'Brien, parents of five-year-old Nathan O'Brien, stand at a press conference at the Calgary Police Service's Westwinds office in Calgary, Alta., on Wednesday, July 2, 2014. (Lyle Aspinall/QMI Agency)

Michael Platt, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:45 AM ET

CALGARY -- If only it was make-believe -- but the tears, trembling words and haunted eyes make it all too clear that this is as real is it gets for the parents of Nathan O'Brien.

Despite a wall of lenses, microphones and pens scribbling every strained syllable, parents Rod and Jennifer are alone with Nathan, speaking to him directly in hopes one of the cameras is somehow connecting to their boy, wherever he is.

"Nathan, your mom and dad, Luke, Maximus, and your whole family loves you to every star and back," says Rod, fighting to make the words come out.

"Nathan, you are our superhero right now and we're going to bring you home very soon. Nathan, God is taking care of your soul, and mom and dad need you to be brave right now."

It's an agonizingly private moment shared at a public press conference, marking the first time family has spoken openly since Nathan and his grandparents, Kathryn and Alvin Liknes, disappeared.

They just want Nathan to not be scared -- and so they talk to him directly, as two terrified parents to a little boy they desperately want to comfort, using references their five-year-old would understand the best.

Like superheroes.

No parent could ever imagine their son's passion for Superman and all the other comic book characters would ever be more than an innocent fad, part of a typical happy childhood filled with adventure stories and make-believe.

But with Nathan and his grandparents gone, taken away in a mysterious abduction case that has police baffled, superheroes are suddenly something this mom and dad need their son to believe in.

If there's one thing Superman can teach a five-year-old, it's how to be brave.

"He went everywhere forever in costume -- I think he actually thinks he is Superman," says Jennifer, when asked to describe her son.

"We didn't even buy him clothes, we bought him costumes because he loved to dress up. That's why we refer to him as our superhero, because we know he's strong."


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