Vivian Ramirez gets in her car every day and drives to Eastmont Elementary School, where she has worked 20 years as an instructional aide and media specialist. It's the same school her son attended. She hasn't missed a day since he was captured.
"When I came in [the next Monday], I was totally surprised to find her here," said Principal Thomas Donfrio. "She said, 'You know what, the kids give me strength. They keep me focused on what's important.' She has been the face of courage and hope for all of us."
Children come into the library all day to give her hugs, or cards, or sing her a song. The room is plastered with their artwork and cards from well-wishers. The trees around the school are wrapped in giant yellow ribbons, and the sign over the building reads, "Bring Our Andy Home."
The hard times come when she goes home, when the thoughts crowd in on her and she can't push away the worry and grief. She spends the evenings looking through the hundreds of letters of support, taking solace in the tokens sent by well-wishers: a bag of holy dirt from Mexico, special purple grass from Scotland, a feather from a Vietnam veteran who carried it during the war.
She sends messages to Andy in her mind. "OK, mijo," she says to him. "Hang in there and think of me." She hopes he can hear her. Meanwhile, she clings to his letter.
. . . Please let everyone know that I love and miss them and that I am healthy and doing okay. I hope to see you soon.