CONWAY — The hopes of volunteers working for the safe return of 15-year-old Abigail Hernandez were lifted when law enforcement officials announced that a letter from Abigail was sent to her mother, arriving nearly a month after she went missing.
"I'm incredibly hopeful, that message says to me that she's alive," said Paul Kirsch, a local volunteer leader who has organized much of the volunteer effort to find Abigail, and who has established a web site for the search, www.bringabbyhome.com.
"We are hopeful that Abby is alive and out there," said Amanda Smith, who with Kirsch operates the Facebook page Bring Abby Home.
On that page Friday, positive notes were frequent.
"I actually found some relief from watching the press conference," said one poster. "Abby is alive and out there. It sounds as if they have some ideas on what could be going on, but that they still need some help in locat(ing) her. Keeping Abby, Zenya and Sarah in our thoughts and prayers as always!"
Hernandez was last seen Oct. 9 walking from Kennett High School in North Conway, where she is a freshman. Since her disappearance, Kirsch and Smith have been conducting Facebook campaigns. Kirsch hosted an online vigil that brought Abigail's photo to more than 3,200 Facebook pages in one night.
At the press conference in Concord on Friday, volunteers were praised by FBI Agent Kieran Ramsey and Associate Attorney General Jane Young for their hard work.
Smith said she has faith in state and federal investigators as well.
"I'm confident that law enforcement is doing everything in Abby's best interest, her well-being and safety being their top priority," she said.
Young has urged the volunteers to keep working, and they intend to do just that, Kirsch said.
"The most important thing all of us can do is to continue to get Abby's face out there," he said after the press conference Friday. "We need to continue to get her message out."
"We will continue with our Facebook and web pages, posting fliers all over the country and keeping Abby's story out there until she is home," Smith said.