MOUNTAIN BROOK, Ala. – They have waited and prayed for good news for a week, refusing to give up hope that 18-year-old Natalee Holloway (search) will be found alive and come back home.
The belief has kept residents of this upscale suburb and Holloway's anxious family tightly bound since the teen went missing last Monday during a senior class trip to Aruba (search).
"You don't want that to happen to anybody's family," said Nikki Quick, manager of a gift shop in the mostly residential, tree-lined community of 22,000 that is home to many of the Birmingham area's most well-to-do families.
An aunt of Holloway, Marcia Twitty (search), said the girl's mother — though on "an emotional roller coaster" — is staying upbeat: "I know Natalee is alive and I'm going to find her," she quoted her saying.
The hope is shared from one town to the other; yellow ribbons are attached to everything from mail boxes to automatic bank machines.
"We're just showing that we're supporting her family and everyone down there wanting to bring her home," Quick said.
Quick spent Monday morning redecorating the show window in front of her business with only yellow items — her own small way of showing support. A handmade sign on the sidewalk outside said "Pray for Natalee."
Mountain Brook Mayor Terry Oden said he's not at all surprised residents have banded together. "Most people have lived here all their lives and we care for each other," he said.
In Aruba, the effort to find the youngster grew Monday. About 700 volunteers joined police, soldiers and FBI agents combing scrubland and beaches on the Dutch Caribbean island's southeastern tip. Aruba's government let 4,000 civil servants off work early to hunt for the teen.
"It's the first time Aruba has done such a big search," said Kenneth Angela, among the hundreds of searchers. "We want to keep Aruba's name good. That's why we're here, to help find Natalee."
Police commander Judy Hassell said Aruba's 74 square miles, slightly larger than Washington, D.C., made a full search of the island impractical. "We're going to do as much as we can," he said.
Two suspects, aged 28 and 30, have been arrested in connection with the disappearance. Neighbors said the pair served as security guards at a hotel under renovation near the one where Holloway stayed.
Holloway's disappearance has shaken the sense of security many of Aruba's 97,000 people took for granted. Only one murder and six rapes were recorded last year. So far this year, there have been two murders and three rapes on the island, where the average annual income is a comfortable $22,000.
The Aruba government and local tourism organizations have offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to Holloway's rescue. Her family and benefactors in Alabama have offered $30,000 in addition.
Holloway went to Aruba with more than 100 other recent Mountain Brook High School graduates on a senior trip, along with seven adult chaperones. The school's graduates have been making the trip to Aruba, which is unofficial and not sponsored by the school, for about the past five years, Oden said.
The night she disappeared, Holloway went to a beach concert and then ate and danced at Carlos' n Charlie's bar and restaurant. She did not show up for her return flight hours later, and police found her passport in her hotel room with her packed bags.
Twitty, speaking to reporters Monday in the parking lot of Mountain Brook Community Church, which has been holding daily prayer services, showed a large picture of Holloway and her mother.
"These people belong together. This is a mom and daughter team that go together," Twitty said. "She's missing and we've got to find her."
Asked how the family was reacting to the possibility Holloway might not be found alive, Twitty remarked: "I can't mentally go there, because we've got to find her."
At Norton's Florist, manager Deana Cross said she had made 400 yellow ribbon displays in the past four days and was having trouble keeping up with orders.
"Every bow goes out the store with a little prayer," she said.