Sierra LaMar: Anatomy of a Search Day 30

My wife Violet says that Krystine reminds her of me. In a certain sense that may be so. However, Krystine is much younger, much prettier and probably much smarter than me.

Krystine Dinh is one of the most knowledgeable volunteers at the Sierra Search Center. She is a problem solver, an organizer and a good friend. When Krystine is present people gravitate to her to talk, walk, or to simply sit in silence. Unfortunately Krystine’s knowledge and empathy were not easily achieved as they were born of personal experience.

On May 17, 2011, her devoted cousin Michelle Le disappeared while taking nursing classes at Kaiser Hospital in Hayward, CA. That event thrust Krystine and her family into the arena that none of us are prepared to enter, yet are expected to master. It’s never easy to stare into the abyss, particularly when the wind is forcefully pushing at your back and especially when one of the people you love the most is unexpectedly missing and thought to be deceased.

So, how do you reconcile the chaos of violent crime with an orderly world and a life plan that now litters your path like shards of broken glass? One way to do that is to draw upon your experience and instinct and get busy trying to achieve that elusive reconciliation.

The first time I saw Krystine was on TV. She was facing a bank of television cameras responding to the disappearance of dear Michelle. She seemed cool, calm and collected — as if she’d been doing this all her life. Her words reassured those around her and she spoke with confidence. “Pretty good for somebody who is totally freaking out because her best friend and confidant had disappeared,” I thought.

About a week later I met Krystine, her cousin Michael Le and Michelle’s entire family. She had moved to the Bay Area to begin a new job the day before Michelle vanished. She seemed smaller, more fragile in person. The rest of the family lived in San Diego and had caravanned up to the Bay Area to find Michelle, and they needed help.

Instinct is a gift. It is different than intelligence, but equally as important in achieving success. Instinct helps you get your bearings in the storm and assists in navigating against a difficult tide.

Michelle’s family remained united in the midst of a ripping tide, but it was left to the kids, the first generation Americans, to navigate. Krystine belied her years and took the helm. She never wavered in her resolve, she never lost her cool and she commanded the respect of all.

It has been less than a year since Michelle disappeared. It took four months to find her. It has been less than eight months since Michelle’s remains were discovered. Yet Krystine and her remarkable cousin Michael come to the Sierra Search Center whenever they can. They have fought through the pain and the agony of loss and have emerged stronger and more focused for the experienced. Now they share the benefit of their experience with those facing a similar situation.

Krystine Dinh is one of the most knowledgeable and experienced volunteers at the Sierra Search Center. With her help we have conducted sixteen volunteer searches. We have deployed 6,134 searchers on 556 search assignments and blanketed a 20-mile radius around Sierra’s home. In all we have expended 30,936 hours and fed and supplied the entire enterprise on primarily donated food and supplies. 

My wife Violet says that Krystine reminds her of me. In a certain sense that may be so. However, Krystine is much younger, much prettier and probably much smarter than me. She’s also a woman and she is Asian. You know, in many ways Krystine reminds me of Violet.

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