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About 1,200 people have joined a Facebook group dedicated to finding English teacher Tom Duesterhaus, who reportedly vanished after being told his contract at Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington wouldn’t be renewed for next year.

Duesterhaus’ popularity as an educator is what’s drawing some to the Facebook group. “He definitely connected with a lot of students,” says Emilie Begin, who took a class with Duesterhaus as a high school junior. She remembers the teacher as being the artsy type: “He had his guitar with him all the time,” she says.

The Fairfax County Police Department is handling the case. They say Duesterhaus is 37 years old, 6’3″ with blond hair and green eyes, and that he was last spotted in Virginia Beach. A woman saw Duesterhaus take a swim in the ocean there on Saturday, then later found his travel bag abandoned.

His car is a 1999 blue Buick Lesabre. Police also say he likes to frequent “parks and [homeless] shelters.” Officer Bud Walker says Duesterhaus has no history of mental illness. A bio available on a website says Duesterhaus has made “lifetime promises of poverty, chastity, and obedience” as a member of a Catholic group called the ”Youth Apostles Institute.”

One thing members of the Find Tom Duesterhaus Facebook page are discussing is the idea that the teacher brought fiction to life when he took off. According to a site that purports to be his blog, he has penned a novel called Loyal Treatment. The first chapter is available online and opens with a grief-stricken character pondering leaving home.

Tony Burrow is surprised. And that’s important to know here, because this surprising moment touches every moment in the rest of his story. Tony is surprised – again, this is key – because for the first time in as long as he can remember, his first thought upon waking up is not about his parents and the car crash that ended their lives so suddenly and so sadly fifteen years before. Instead, as he lays in his bed underneath a denim  and flannel comforter in his upstairs bedroom, his first thought is about leaving: leaving this town of Hector’s Bridge where he’s lived nearly all of his life, leaving this town where, as he now moves on to his second thought of the day, his parents were hit by that oncoming car. Leaving. Simple. Simple?

Duesterhaus’ father, Rich Duesterhaus, wants him back: ”We’ll come meet him at any place to help work through any challenges he’s got,” he told the McLean Patch. Anyone with information should call Detective Chris Flanagan at 703-246-7860 or the Fairfax County Police Department at 703-691-2131 .