Throughout the week, a steady loop of vans and buses carried volunteers to the south and west sections of the city. Organized into teams, they came to search, some wearing rubber boots and hats, wielding machetes and carrying backpacks and first-aid kits.
“I am here because I care,” said Charity Livingston, 23, a UF student from Miami who joined a group of church friends at the search. “The family asked for help so I answered the call.”
Hers was a refrain both somber and familiar: Friends and strangers were here for the family.
They had heard the grief stricken pleas of Carlos Aguilar before and after the murder charges were filed - the gracious father who vowed not to leave Gainesville without his son. Please, he said, come to walk the woods and brush and wetlands for the tiniest trace of Christian.
“They are going to see me at 9 in the morning,” Aguilar, tearful, weary, said late Friday after he had spent time with his family and a priest. “The next time I will be with my son is in the church, putting him to rest.’’
As always, he came to the search early. He wore black jeans. Black long-sleeve shirt. And black rosary beads.
A half-hour after Saturday’s search started, Gov. Rick Scott arrived, where he spoke with the family privately and personally joined Aguilar as he combed through a wooded area.
The pictures of Christian Aguilar, now on countless missing fliers, haunted Frank Lopez, pushed his mind back to his own great sadness of almost half-century ago – and inspired him to join the search.
In 1965, Lopez’s 6-year-old daughter, Felicia, died in an accidental fall. Only last year, were he and his wife able to display her picture in the living room of their Archer home.
“I know something about that kind of pain,” Lopez, 76, a retired computer operator, said, sighing. “As soon as I heard about the case, my heart just dropped. You look at the picture and can’t help thinking that could be your son, your child.”