Union Democrat staff

A flyer like one you'd see on a telephone pole or a shop window showed the faces of 11 people, some smiling, some earnest, all missing.

The flyer was affixed to a deep brown wooden podium, where families members spoke about the people they think of every day, the ones they fear they will never see again.

It was the third year they had come together for the Tuolumne County Missing Persons' Awareness Day.

Tracy Mayo came from Fargo, North Dakota, to remember her mother, Nita, missing now for 13 years.

Sandy Lee was there. Her son Darvis was missing for four months in 2010 before part of his body was found in the Quail Mine area. They are still looking for his body and his killer.

About 60 people attended the event at Columbia State Historic Park.

The keynote speaker was Marc Klaas, whose daughter Polly was abducted from her Petaluma home in 1993 and was missing for three months before her body was found.

“Many tears were shed,” Lee said.

Also on hand were representatives of the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Department, Sonora Police Department, Tuolumne County District Attorney/Victim Witness, Center for a Non Violent Community, DOJ Missing and Unidentified Missing Persons Unit from Sacramento and CARDA-California Rescue Dog Association, also out of Sacramento.

“Poems were read, beautiful songs played,” Lee said.

She estimates there are 30 people missing from Tuolumne County.

As the event concluded, families released balloons in memory of their loved ones.

“Everyone realized in the end, how valuable this time for the families of the missing loved ones is, to get together once a year for support, and to give the community awareness, so that their loved ones who are missing, are never forgotten,” Lee said.