Vigils keep focus on Levy and others

05/02/2002 9:40 AM

11/20/2007 10:15 AM

Candle flames danced delicately as a swirling breeze chilled the air but not the spirit of those who gathered Wednesday night outside the Stanislaus County Courthouse to remember Chandra Levy.

"We really appreciate everyone coming together and praying with us," Susan Levy said. "We're not giving up!"

Upon hearing her words, many shouted back, "We're not giving up, either!"

Levy's comments to a crowd of more than 100 people in Modesto came via cell phone from Washington, where another candlelight vigil was held.

Chandra Levy was 24 when she vanished a year ago; her disappearance touched off a media

firestorm after reports linked her romantically to Rep. Gary Condit of Ceres.

The crowd of about two dozen people in Washington joined the Levys outside the apartment where their daughter had lived.

The building is just a few blocks from the Dupont Circle gym where Levy last was seen April 30, 2001. The Levys heard from her May 1, 2001, when she sent them an e-mail concerning travel plans.

From the street, people could look up toward the third-floor studio apartment Levy rented while working as an intern at the Bureau of Prisons.

Many who attended the vigils said they came to show support for the family and to help keep Levy's face in the public eye.

The Guardian Angels, a community patrol group in the nation's capital, passed out posters describing Levy. Many wore "Where is Chandra?" buttons bearing her photo.

The same buttons and posters also were prevalent at the gathering in Modesto.

Ursula Foster said she attends the same Modesto synagogue as the Levys, Congregation Beth Shalom.

"I didn't know Chandra," she said. "But I know what it's like not knowing. I know what it's like when a loved one is missing. My only brother was murdered at Auschwitz."

Foster said it was not until after World War II had ended -- years later -- that her family determined that her brother had been killed at the concentration camp.

While the Levys continue to hope their daughter will return home safe and sound, they also are painfully aware that with each passing day the chance of that happening grows dimmer.

Sheriff Les Weidman told the Modesto crowd that while it is difficult to be optimistic, people should not lose hope.

Placing his arm around Adam Levy, the missing woman's 20-year-old brother, Weidman praised him and his family.

"We appreciate your strength," he said. "We offer you our prayers and support. We will always be here for you and your family."

Sheriff's Department spokesman Kelly Huston told the crowd that Chandra Levy's disappearance had become a symbol for the hundreds of people who are missing throughout the United States.

"This is not only a search for Chandra," he said, "but for all the people with missing loved ones. It's up to people like you here tonight to keep the flame of hope burning."

A similar view was expressed at the Washington vigil by Joann Donnellan, a spokeswoman for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Only by keeping Levy's story in the public eye, she said, will there be a chance of solving the mystery.

"It's imperative the public embrace this story," she said, "because it's someone in the public who's going to solve it."

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