They abruptly left college and their jobs behind, choosing instead to search for their missing friend.
And several of Dru Sjodin's friends from Pequot Lakes said today they won't be home for Thanksgiving until Sjodin comes home too.
Hans Tweed, Eli Loven and Adam Ruud helped organize a search party of about 20-30 friends of Sjodin from Pequot Lakes. They've chosen to remain in Grand Forks indefinitely, searching from dawn until dusk every day since early Monday morning. They had 16 cars in their own informal search party this morning and planned to comb a rural area between the Columbia Mall, where Sjodin was believed abducted, to the small town of Fisher, where a call was placed from Sjodin's cell phone after she disappeared. They searched about 17 miles along a rural road near Fisher Tuesday.
"She's worth every second of it," said Tweed, Pequot Lakes, a Bemidji State University student. "And we're going to be up here as long as it takes, until we find something. We haven't slept barely and haven't done anything but worry about her. ... She's a loving and caring girl, very independent. She's so fun to be around you can fall in love with her just like that."
Meg Murphy has been waiting by the telephone of the on-campus apartment she shares with Sjodin since she called police and reported her friend was missing Saturday night. Murphy, who's also from Pequot Lakes, said it scares her to be alone in their apartment, fearful that the person who abducted her friend may know where Sjodin lives. Investigators have been in and out of their apartment numerous times, going through Sjodin's things in her room to try to find clues to her disappearance.
"It's like a nightmare," said Murphy, from Grand Forks today. "Sometimes I feel it's not even happening, that she's just going to walk through the door or call or something. And then when you watch the news, or when the police call again or go through her room, the reality hits."
Murphy said she spoke to Sjodin at 9 a.m. Saturday. She woke Sjodin up so she could drive her to her car, which she had left the night before at a local restaurant. The two women went to breakfast together at Burger King and then Sjodin dropped her off at her vehicle. It was the last time Murphy saw her friend.
Murphy said she got home from work about 6 p.m. and got a call about 15 minutes later from Sjodin's boyfriend, Chris Lang, who lives in Crosslake. She said Lang was concerned because Sjodin had been cut off on her cell phone when they had been talking earlier. Murphy said Lang also called her later after he said he got another call from her cell phone about 8 p.m. and heard only static and the sounds of a person pressing the buttons on the phone. Murphy got a call from the restaurant that Sjodin works at around 9:15 p.m. Saturday, reporting that she hadn't shown up for work. That's when Murphy called the police to report her missing.
Murphy said her entire family was planning to spend Thanksgiving with her in Grand Forks. A local grocery store offered to prepare a Thanksgiving dinner for Murphy and Sjodin's friends and family. She said she hasn't been to work or school since Sjodin went missing.
"I really hope they find her somewhere, still alive," said Murphy. "Dru's such a nice person I don't know how anybody could do hurtful things to her, or that she could have done anything to anybody to make them do something like this to her."
Hope is fueling volunteers and the entire community of Pequot Lakes as the search continues for Sjodin.
A bus scheduled to leave Pequot Lakes this morning with search volunteers was canceled after law enforcement officials in North Dakota said they were overloaded. However, the bus may be rescheduled for a later date when more volunteers may be needed again.
Community members and Pequot Lakes Mayor Cathy Malecha put up pink ribbons, Sjodin's favorite color, in the city and people are wearing them as a symbol of the continuing search for the 22-year-old.
Trina Marana, Pequot Lakes Police Department office manager, said people are emotionally caught between whether the lack of search results is good or bad news. And behind it all is the pressure of time since the suspected abduction on Saturday.
Marana said hearts go out to the family and all they are going through. Linda Walker was in the police department's offices Tuesday.
"Just one look at her makes you want to cry," Marana said.
Sjodin's friends in Pequot Lakes are praying for her safe return. Several of her friends spent the day Tuesday with her mom and stepfather, Linda and Sidney Walker.
Celia Loven, Pequot Lakes, who has been friends with Sjodin since they were in fifth grade at Pequot Lakes Elementary School, said she had just spoken to Sjodin last week. Loven is getting married Jan. 3, and Sjodin is one of her six bridesmaids. Sjodin, who is known for her creativity, had an idea for a wedding cake design that she wanted Loven to see. She told Loven she had just bought her bridesmaid dress.
"I'm mostly in shock," said Loven, who spent Tuesday at the Walker family home. "It doesn't seem real. I just have to keep praying for the best because I believe she'll come out of this fine. She's a tough girl and we've got so many people praying for her and so many who love her. It's just hard right now."
Sarah Millard and Amber Kiel, both of Crosslake, spent part of Tuesday searching for Sjodin in Grand Forks. Both believe their friend is still alive.
"To me, she's kind of a sister, the sister you never had but always wanted," said Millard. "She's amazing. She's a great person and that's why everything is so hard because it hits so close to home. You wonder how someone would ever want to harm her or take her."
Kiel said it was emotionally difficult to search for Sjodin.
"I was absolutely sick to my stomach the whole time," said Kiel. "Part of you wanted to sit down and cry and not go any farther. And I kept thinking that no matter how I felt, Dru is hurting more than me."
"Maybe I'm just lying to myself, but I'm actually real hopeful that she'll be found and she'll be safe," said friend Katie Milton, Pequot Lakes. "I'll definitely be thinking about her on Thanksgiving. But hopefully Dru's family will have her around for Thanksgiving."
Pequot Lakes Police Chief Mark Forsberg has been receiving calls from those who want to help and donate money to a safe return fund. A fund is being set up but a bank had not been named this morning. Forsberg said donations may be mailed to the city of Pequot Lakes with "Attention Dru" to Sandy Peine, city clerk, P.O. Box 361, Pequot Lakes, MN 56472.
"These are things that are just still coming out," Forsberg said of the safe return fund. "The whole community up here is in shock. ... At the holiday season this is the worst thing a family can go through. ... She is missing at this point and everyone is praying for her safe return."
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