The parents of missing 21/2-year-old Caleigh Harrison, still holding out hope for her return, said Friday they remain too emotional to return to their jobs or otherwise move forward.
Caleigh's young cousins, meanwhile, are making it their mission to bring more cheer to the family.
The five children, ranging in age from 7 to 12, have been gathering at their grandfather's Washington Street home to play with Caleigh's sister Elizabeth and offer what hope they can to their parents, aunts and uncles.
Acting on a suggestion for one of their aunts, the children made a large poster with pictures of Caleigh and had the members of the Harrison side of the family sign it with messages begging Caleigh to "come home."
"We're just hoping she comes home," Sabella Curcuru, 10, said when asked how she feels about her missing cousin. Sabella sat on the front steps with her sister, Angelena, 7, Colin Harrison, 12, Julia Harrison, 10, and Brianna Fernandez, 12.
All of the children said they feel the loss of their little cousin very deeply, since they spend a great deal of time together.
"Every weekend, we usually have a play date or a sleepover," said Sabella.
The children said they have been speaking to grief counselors at school, and excitedly listed the games the play to take their minds off of the family tragedy — Guess Who, Sorry, Uno.
"It's hard because lots of people were asking about it and you don't want to be rude and say 'I don't want to talk about it,'" said Sabella.
Caleigh disappeared from Long Beach in Rockport shortly after noon — just after high tide — on Thursday, April 19. Caleigh was playing with her mother, Allison Hammond, Elizabeth, and the family dog, Lucas, by the water, and the little girl vanished in a minute or two during which Hammond went to retrieve a wayward ball.
Rockport Police and Fire departments, Massachusetts State Police, Environmental Police and Coast Guard all rushed to the scene to search for Caleigh. Divers scoured the area, dogs were used to hunt for her scent, but nothing was found, and the police search was called off this Thursday, one week after she disappeared.
State police have refused to release the police report of the incident, saying that it is part of an ongoing investigation.
On Wednesday, members of the Harrison family began to raise the theory that Caleigh hadn't been found in the water because she had never been in it; she had been abducted.
"We're keeping that close to our hearts because that's the only way we are getting her back," said David Harrison Jr., Caleigh's uncle and godfather.
State police said that while foul play could not be definitively ruled out, there is no evidence that Caleigh was abducted.
In the meantime, neither Hammond nor Caleigh's father, Anthony Harrison, have felt ready to return to their jobs. Hammond works as a hairdresser locally and at a pub on Main Street, while Harrison works at Americold. Anthony Harrison spent time Friday playing with 4-year-old Elizabeth and the cousins in the backyard.
The Harrison family has made fliers with recent pictures of Caleigh and has been handing them out to anyone and everyone. Some relatives pasted the fliers to their cars, in the hopes that passers-by might have some answers.
"We have no closure," David Harrison said. "We're going to keep looking until we find her."
Caleigh's cousins remember a cheerful little girl, one who tried to turn down the head start offered her at the family Easter egg hunt in order to have her cousins come search with her, then promptly sat down to snack on the first egg she found.
"Caleigh always wanted to do what everyone else wanted to do," said Colin.
Though the family is wearing pink ribbons with the letter C on them to show that they are thinking of Caleigh, her cousins said Caleigh's taste in colors were more of the "different shade every day" type, with green, then blue, then any color she could see rapidly replacing each other as favorites.
"When she got lost, it's like a part of us is missing, because we all stick together," said Angelena.
Stephanie Bergman can contacted at 978-283-7000 x3451 or firstname.lastname@example.org