EVANSDALE — LeeAnn Tomlinson of Evansdale was shocked when Lyric Cook-Morrissey, 11, and Elizabeth Collins, 9, went missing in her hometown a year ago.
So on Saturday morning, she lugged out her Harley-Davidson, wrapped on her bandana and made sure she wore her purple and pink shirt for the 125-mile “Memorial Ride and Drive for the Girls.”
“Everyday you’re searching, you’re looking. No matter where you go, it’s in the back of your head, even today,” Tomlinson said.
Hundreds of community members in purple and pink garb gathered at Lofty’s Lounge for a ride and drive to mark the first anniversary of the cousins’ disappearance on July 13.
The girls’ bodies were later discovered at Seven Bridges Wildlife Area in Bremer County.
“It’s been a hard year,” said Drew Collins, Elizabeth’s father. “We’re just ready for answers and ready to change some laws and get things moving in the right direction.”
When Collins woke up this morning, he said he couldn’t believe a year had passed since Elizabeth and Lyric went missing. He said he appreciates the outpouring of support from the community he received at the ride.
“It’s just amazing. Through tragedy, some of these people who’ve carried us, I didn’t know them a year ago,” Collins said. “No one’s forgot about why we’re doing this.”
In Lofty’s Lounge, though people were eating food and enjoying each other’s company within the dimly lit bar, Chris Webb of Waterloo said everyone knew the true meaning of the day.
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As a motorcycle enthusiast, Webb organized the event to bring awareness to the tragedy.
“Bikers get a bad reputation, but they have the softest heart,” Webb said. “This is exactly for them. Everything here is to bring justice and figure out who did the crime.”
A free meal was provided for everyone who helped find the girls and people bought raffle tickets with proceeds going toward Cedar Valley Crime Stoppers and to Angel Park, a feature added in Evansdale since the girls’ disappearance.
Before the ride and drive, Heather Collins spoke to the crowd about her daughter.
“Everyone always asks me how many children you have. I didn’t realize how hard that question was until we lost Elizabeth,” Collins said. “God blessed us with four children, and even though we lost one, we will never forget her.”
Alicia Kozakiewicz of Virginia attended the event. She was a victim lured on the Internet in 2002 when she was 13 years old. She reminded the crowd the importance of vigilance against predators who prey on children.
“I’m here as a message of hope,” Kozakiewicz said. “Citizens need to come forward. They need to realize that this can happen to them.”
And when the motorcyclists and car owners revved up their engines, even though rain and gray skies were moving in on them, they all moved forward down Lafayette Road, proudly wearing purple and pink the entire ride.
“It’s amazing. They have rallied behind us, brought us dinner, they pretty much have carried us through this,” Drew Collins said.
Linh Ta is a reporter for the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, another Lee Enterprises newspaper.