Local lady hopes to help locate Katrina’s victims

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 23, 2005

All last week, Virginia Hill listened to victims of Hurricane Katrina talk about family members they had lost. They told her about homes that had been destroyed. They told her of children and adults the callers didn’t even know were alive.

So Hill, who has been helping reunite missing children and their families for decades, did what she could. She took down reports, everything people knew about their missing loved ones. She called around to ask if they’d been seen. Some of the information went on the Internet, where many sites dedicated special sections to the storm’s victims.

By the time she came home to Suffolk, Hill had found five people at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (her daughter, who’d gone to Alexandria with her, had found seven). But whenever Hill visits Web sites like katrinasafe.org, she still sees the faces of children whose whereabouts are unknown – and some of them have been missing since the storm hit in late April. To date, over 1,000 bodies are still unidentified.

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That’s why she’s going back.

&uot;It’s really sad,&uot; said Hill, a member of Project America’s Law Enforcement Retiree Team (ALERT), which was implemented by the Center to help find missing and exploited kids.

&uot;We did whatever we could to help the people,&uot; said Hill, who’ll be heading back to work today. &uot;I’ve heard some heartbreaking stories this week. I’ve talked to people who have watched their family members die right in front of them. People were calling us to report kids missing, and I’ve taken reports for missing adults. There was a tremendous response for kids’ well being.&uot;

Even if children are found, they’re still not always out of trouble, she continues.

&uot;A pedophile might try to adopt them,&uot; she said. &uot;We screen applicants closely.&uot;

Hill indicated an option on the Web site, which is entitled Resolved. Clicking on it, she sees the faces of dozens of children that have been located.

&uot;That’s the good part,&uot; she said. &uot;Everybody wants to know where the children are. Sometimes, all it takes is a phone call.&uot;