MODESTO, Calif. -- On the street where Chandra Levy grew up, the yellow ribbons tied to trees, mailboxes and fence posts are starting to look faded and dirty.
Six months after she vanished, the chances of finding her alive have grown more remote. For her family, though, there is still hope.
"I try to keep the light flickering, from going out," her mother, Susan Levy, told The Associated Press this week.
Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, however, Levy has stayed in the background, well aware that a national tragedy has made the story of the summer -- a scandal involving a congressman and her daughter -- old news.
Gone are the TV trucks and reporters camped on the Levy family's sidewalk. Gone are the days when scores of officers and cadets combed Washington's Rock Creek Park in search of the 24-year-old former government intern.
Washington police still have two detectives assigned to the case, but it is not clear if they are working on it full-time or, like the rest of the nation, have turned their attention to the anthrax scare and other more pressing issues.
It was hard enough for Susan and Dr. Robert Levy when their daughter vanished May 1. Now she is gone again -- from the headlines and talk shows where her image and story remained alive for months.
In many ways the Levys have joined the ranks of nearly 100,000 other American families who are missing a loved one. In 1999, there were 97,376 active missing-persons cases in the country, and more than a third were adults, according to the Nation's Missing Children Organization and Center for Missing Adults in Arizona.
The break in the news coverage is a mixed blessing. Susan Levy said she misses the attention her daughter's case received but understands that there is a more important story to report. She doesn't miss the hoopla.
"It's nice to be able to take a walk or go out to get the paper without the media crews being there constantly," said Kim Petersen of the Carole Sund-Carrington Foundation, a missing-persons organization founded after three women were slain in Yosemite National Park. "But a family in their circumstance wants to be doing something."
For months, Levy had kept her daughter's memory alive in impromptu interviews with reporters in front of her house and sit-down conversations with talk show hosts.
She was supposed to fly to Chicago on Sept. 11 for an interview on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" when the planes struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The attacks did more than ground her flight and cancel her appearance.
For someone grieving like Levy, the attacks only made matters worse.
"I felt helpless," she said. "When this happened it just doubled my grief. It just put me in a tailspin. I felt grief for 6,000 people."
She said she considered a newspaper ad to say her family was praying for all the victims. But that felt wrong. Ultimately, she decided to lie low and mourn her own loss along with the country's.
She felt that the victims, like her daughter, weren't dead. In the language of hope and coping, they were missing.
Donna Raley, a stepmother of a Modesto woman who disappeared two years ago, knows the feeling. Raley helped Levy start a support group for families with missing loved ones.
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