Community mourns Sandra's loss

April 7, 2009 6:17:24 PM PDT
For the community that rallied to find her, the discovery of Sandra Cantu's remains is especially heartbreaking. Over the past week and a half, people came to feel they knew her and they are now coping with the loss.

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For the past two weeks hundreds of volunteers have been working all over Tracy to get the word out about the once missing girl. Many of those volunteers and Tracy residents came to the mobile home park where she lived. Many came because they said they didn't know where else to go.

Most of the people who came to the memorial outside the gates of Sandra's mobile home park never met her, but on this day that didn't matter.

"It's heartbreaking. She's just a little girl, she's just 8 years old, she's just a little girl," said Mary Foshee.

That little girl is now Tracy's angel.

"We just thought that she was alive. I don't know, as a community we just held on to, you know, she was a girl who wouldn't go with a stranger," said Sheryl Johnson who had passed out hundreds of fliers with Sandra's picture.

This Central Valley town rallied to find Sandra. They hung her photos anywhere they could, from cars to lamp posts. For the 11 days she was missing her photo was everywhere.

"I feel like Sandra Cantu is part of the family right now," said a resident.

At Jacobsen Elementary School, Sandra's desk sits empty and her classmates struggle to comprehend what has happened.

"A lot of them felt scared and maybe afraid that could happen to them. So we just let them know it's not something that happens frequently and that at the school they could feel safe here," said school psychologist Valeria Reynosa.

Tracy residents hope for their children's sake, they will all start to feel safe sometime soon.

"It's too dangerous out there for these kids to be walking around by themselves," said Henry Lubers from Modesto.

Knowing how prevalent that sense of fear is right now in Tracy, the Jacobsen Elementary School sent a letter out to all the parents in the district reminding them to talk to their children openly about strangers and also to make safety a part of their everyday routine.

Interestingly enough, in that same letter, the school district told parents that they should emphasize that events like this happen very rarely. Still, many parents say they're watching their children very closely.

Click here to see the letter to parents from Jacobsen Elementary School

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