Family, Volunteers Speak About Missing 7-Year-Old
Click here for the latest on this developing story.
This story aired at 10 p.m. September 9.
Seven-year-old Willow Long's mother isn't sure what the girl was wearing or where she was going when she reportedly walked away from their Circle Street home in Effingham County.
Now, more than a day later, there are no clues--although volunteers have turned out by the hundreds to search for Willow.
Tonight, volunteers have been sent home--leaving the search to the professionals. Their job may be done for the night, but rest is the last thing those volunteers will do.
"Pray," search volunteer Kim Lane said. "That's all I can say is pray. Pray that God takes care of her."
By 10 a.m. Monday, 24 hours after Willow went missing, more than 600 volunteers had turned out to search for her.
"I can't imagine, even though I've lost a child," Lane said. "I knew she passed away in a hospital. I knoew where she was. I know where she's at. I can't imagine having to not know what's happening to your child."
Neither can most of the volunteers in the small Effingham County town of Watson.
As the clock moved forward, so did search crews--as day turned to dusk, and with limited time.
"They know that there's a 7-year-old out there, and they're going to search until they can't search anymore," Effingham County Sheriff John Monnet said.
We spoke with Willow's grandfather this evening. He is the first member of her family to talk with us on camera. Here's what he had to say.
We were talking earlier, and you don't believe that she walked away.
DALE DERYKE, Willow's grandfather:
No. No, ma'am. Someone she was maybe acquainted with or thought she was acquainted with--we live on a dead-end drive. I know this is weird, but she's never left my yard. Never. You know how kids are, they run. She doesn't do that. And I'm not saying that because she's my grandbaby. She doesn't do that. Somebody she knows or somebody approached her. They took--her glasses, they're on the table. She's not there. I don't know.
Investigators tell us they will keep pursuing this case as it was brought to them, and that's as if Willow walked out of the house all by herself.
The professionals will search until 6 a.m. If Willow isn't found by then, they said, they'll go back to the drawing board.
Search teams have investigated some leads, but none have been directly connected to Willow. They found a pair of pink flip-flops, but they found the child those shoes belonged to shortly afterward.
Willow has shoulder-length red hair. She's between 3'10" and 4' tall and weighs around 46 pounds. She is not wearing her glasses.