This blog was written by Krystine Dinh, cousin of Michelle Le. Le was a nursing student from San Mateo who went missing in May 2011. .
This routine is familiar. I woke up at 6 a.m. prepared to make a long drive to a search center that promises an even longer day. Media trucks are parked outside, but our family is not the one they’re looking to hound now. A long line forms outside with volunteers eager to help. Most are not familiar faces, but their presence is calming. The emotions that come with every search are difficult for me to comprehend – filled with anxiety but also unbeatable hope, exhaustion but perseverance. But this time, I’m on the other side. I’m a volunteer – one of the many- simply looking to make even an ounce of difference in the effort to bring Sierra home.
“Whatever it takes,” I tell myself – the same phrase I repeated in my head over and over when Michelle went missing in May 2011.
The first time I met Sierra’s family, I was speechless. What is there to say that would suffice? They are facing a nightmare every minute of the day; they wake up each morning wondering where Sierra is and every night hoping Sierra is alive, fed, safe, warm, trying to find her way back.
And on top of all of that, they have to use whatever brainpower they have left to coordinate a national effort to bring Sierra home. I came to the LaMars’ searches knowing that it has only been six months since I faced the same emotions, fought with the same demons – hoping that I would be strong enough now to help others be strong.
And now I remember. I remember that searches give you an acute sense of how many compassionate people exist – their hearts big enough to give love to people they have never met.
It amazes me every time. Today, more than 650 volunteers of all ages to came to Morgan Hill to help search, flier and promote fundraising efforts. Seventy search teams were dispatched, extending the search radius to 20 miles from Sierra’s home.
Teenagers helped make signs and tie bows. Restaurants and grocery stores donated large amounts of food and water. The most passionate volunteers found themselves in significant roles within the search for Sierra – whether that be making phone calls or braving poison oak as searchers.
At searches, everyone is working toward something much, much bigger than themselves. And despite the ugliness that surrounds Sierra’s disappearance, searches remind you that there remains so much good in the world.
I am in awe of the community that is pulling together for Sierra. I hope this sends a loud, clear message to the abductors, sex offenders, human traffickers, perpetrators, kidnappers, murderers and rapists – that they will not and cannot take our loved ones without a fight. That, if you take one of ours, we are not staying silent.
From what I have learned, Sierra is a fighter – always sticking up for her friends, speaking her mind, relentlessly showing her loved ones that she cares for them. So, I pray that her community continues to show up for her the way she would for all of them. Together, we can and will bring Sierra home – whatever it takes.