Large crowds gathered Thursday evening for a life and love celebration of Elizabeth Collins. The overwhelming support for the Collins family is really no surprise. Ever since she and cousin Lyric Cook disappeared Friday, July 13th, dozens came together to search for them, pray, hold vigils, and of course display what have become the iconic pink ribbons and posters with photos of the girls.
That day is a day the Cedar Valley won't soon forget. Their grandmother was the last person to see them that day, as they headed off for a bike ride around Meyers Lake in Evansdale.
"They've got to be okay. We're praying that nothing happened to them," said Wylma Cook, Lyric and Elizabeth's grandmother.
But with no sight of the girls, massive searches were organized throughout the weekend.
"I have grandkids, and it's sad that they're not found yet," said volunteer Jody Mehmen.
Hundreds of volunteers joined law enforcement to comb every inch of Evansdale and beyond, looking for any trace of the cousins. But those searches came up empty.
"It's like they just vanished, you know. There's nothing," said Rick Abben, chief deputy with the Black Hawk County Sheriff's Office.
Ultimately, police said the girls had been abducted, but they had no suspects and no idea of where the cousins were.
The devastation of their disappearance pulled the community together. Regular vigils were held at Meyers Lake.
"We just pray, Lord, that they are found and brought back to their families," someone said during one of those vigils.
That wealth of support, and their own strong faith, helped the girls' families cope.
"We can't express our gratitude for how many people have showed up--people that don't even know us. Even under the worse circumstances, God is good. He is here. He is with us. You can feel His presence, and I just know they'll be brought home safe, and soon," said Heather Collins, Elizabeth's mother.
Pink bows and posters with the girls' photos popped all across Iowa and beyond. Even the girls' classmates made cards praying for their safe return.
"It shows a girl's arm with a bracelet that says: Pray for Elizabeth Collins and Lyric Cook," said Collin Yu, friend of Elizabeth Collins.
But as month after month passed, there was no sign of Elizabeth or Lyric.
"The days are starting to mesh one into another. It's an ongoing nightmare," said Tammy Brousseau, Elizabeth and Lyric's aunt.
Then, on December 5th, came the news no one wanted. Hunters discovered two bodies at Seven Bridges Park in Bremer County. A few days later, confirmation the remains were those of the missing girls. New memorials were placed at Seven Bridges, mourning the loss of the girls.
"Not only children are tore up, but families, the community---these girls became one of us," said Christina Nelson of Waterloo.
And that's hard to dispute. In their short lives, and in wake of their tragic deaths, Lyric and Elizabeth brought entire communities together--their story impacting thousands, and leaving a legacy that won't soon be forgotten.
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