There’s a new quarterback in town. Michael Le may be the coolest guy in the room, but even he became giddy at the prospect of meeting 49er quarterback Alex Smith and some of his teammates at today’s search.
Of course I didn’t need to remind Michael that we were searching for the missing 15-year-old cheerleader and not having a fan-fest for local sports heroes, because it was only six months ago that we were looking for his sister Michelle. That Michael is ready and willing to assume a leadership position in this effort is pretty amazing under those circumstances. “Marc, wouldn’t it be awesome if I was the 49er’s team leader? Then I could boss them around and tell them what to do.”
“Yes, that would be fantastic Michael,” I said. “Let me see what I can do.”
I picked KlaasKids National Search Director Brad Dennis up at SFO yesterday afternoon and we drove down to Morgan Hill together. The Search Center was abuzz with activity when we arrived in the late afternoon. Brad disappeared into the mapping room as I engaged Frank Harper in a conversation about an incident he had mentioned last week about a rape victim that he and his sons had rescued more than ten years ago. The physical similarities between that victim, Sierra, and Christina Williams who was kidnapped and murdered in Seaside, CA in 1998, were startling. Got me to thinking so I blogged about it yesterday.
The search effort is in transition. KlaasKids is turning direct management over to community leaders and assuming a support and assistance role because we don’t have adequate staff to devote full time to the multiple cases that we are involved with. We brought Brad back this week because the response to the Sierra search has been so massive and the 49ers have been so openly supportive. We were concerned about an overwhelming response so Brad and his mapping team planned for as many as 1,000 volunteers.
Four of those searchers turned out to be 49er tight end Delanie Walker, quarterback Alex Smith and his wife Elizabeth, backup quarterback Scott Tolzien, and tackle Joe Staley who really is as large as a redwood tree. All of them were assigned to Michael Le’s search team.
When Michael’s team came back hours later I asked him how things went. He said that, “They were really awesome. And you know what? I wasn’t intimidated by them or anything,” Mike said, “but boy are they massive. It’s like they could snap me like a toothpick. They were extremely thorough and enthusiastic and they followed all their instructions. When I told them to hold the line, they held the line. When I asked them to dig into the brush they did. Even their wives and girlfriends dug deeply into the brush. They called me over when they found something relevant or suspicious. They did seem kind of anti-media though. Somehow, a couple of the media truck figured out where we were and started dogging us. It was a tough search, but I know that my team was thorough.”
Another team, searching a high probability area was looking in outbuildings when they found a barn full of a dozen malnourished and filthy pigs in dilapidated pens. The team leader reported the find to Santa Clara Animal Control, only to be told that they would not be able to respond until Monday. It turns out that there are only three animal control officers assigned to the 1,500 square mile County. In the old HBO television show Deadwood they used to throw dead bodies into the pigpen to make them disappear.
These were but two of 53 teams consisting of 600 volunteers that were dispatched for today’s search. Every morning begins with such hope and ends with such frustration. Regardless of how many volunteer show up and how much terrain is covered, and as successful as this effort seems, at the end of the day Sierra LaMar is still missing.