As more than 100 police officers fanned out Sunday looking for two young sisters missing since Friday, neighbor Dawn Allen rolled up her sleeves and went to work.
She put up fliers around the Lake Grove Village Apartment complex on the South Side to organize an 11 a.m. search party. "We are all parents," the fliers said. "We feel that pain. Come out as a community. Come out as a family. We have to protect our children."
Disappointed by police bulletins that featured blurry black and white photographs of the missing sisters, Allen obtained color prints from their mother and ran off a stack of new bulletins on her home computer.
Allen, 32, and a small group of volunteers then joined a massive police effort--going door-to-door, searching abandoned buildings, using police dogs to sniff parked cars, and scouring on foot the lakefront, nearby woods and railroad tracks that cut through the Oakland neighborhood.
For the second day, police also were in the air and on the water, using helicopters and the marine unit in an intense search for Tionda Bradley, 10, and Diamond Bradley, 3.
They disappeared Friday morning after their mother, Tracey Bradley, left them alone in their apartment when she went to work. Left behind was a note, thought to be in Tionda's handwriting, saying they were going to a nearby school or store.
Family members held out hope the children would be found safe, even though several believed there was no explanation for their disappearance other than that they were kidnapped.
"There is no way they ran away," said their great-aunt, Shelia Smith. "They never went far from home and were always very obedient. We feel positively sure they were taken."
Police said they have found no evidence the girls were abducted. And despite no new leads, police, too, held out hope.
"I'm very hopeful that we'll find these children alive and well," said Chicago Police Youth Investigations Cmdr. Roberta Bartik said. "We just want them back safe and sound."
Still, she added: "This is a long period of time for these children to be missing. We are concerned."
Covering all the bases, Bartik had messages for anyone who might have the children against their will, and for the children themselves.
"If someone has inadvertently kept Tionda and her sister, thinking they may have had parental permission, please do not be afraid to return them," Bartik said. "If she is afraid to come home because she stayed out with her sister, ... I would like her [Tionda] to know that nothing will happen to her. We'll be very glad to get her home."
Police said they have come up empty in interviews with the children's fathers, other relatives and friends. The family had no previous contacts with police or the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, authorities said.
The girls were last seen around 6 a.m. Friday when Tracey Bradley went to work at a summer lunch program at Taylor Park, 47th and Federal Streets, said her mother, Mary Bradley.
Around 11 a.m., the girls were missing when Tracey Bradley returned home to the three-story apartment building in the Lake Grove Village Apartment complex at 3526 S. Lake Park Ave.
Contents of note
The note, which is being studied by police, said the two had gone to the school Tionda attended, Doolittle Elementary School, about two blocks away at 521 E. 35th Street, or to the Lake Meadows Shopping Center across the street from the school.
"We're not sure whether she went there to go into the school or play at the playground," Bartik said.
Over the next seven hours, police said, Bradley and several neighbors looked for the girls on their own. At 6 p.m. Friday, they contacted police.
Bartik said police are currently focusing their attention on finding the girls and not yet investigating the fact that Bradley left the two girls unsupervised.
"We're going to investigate that," she said, adding that Tracey Bradley has been very cooperative with police.
Tracey Bradley was unavailable for interviews on Sunday, family members said.
Police said Tionda Bradley is 3-feet 1-inch, 70 pounds, with a slim build, black hair in pig tails and brown eyes with light complexion. Diamond Bradley is 2 feet tall, 40 pounds, with a slim build, black hair in pony tails, brown eyes and a medium complexion.
On Sunday, Yolanda Warfield and her daughter, Brittany Shepard, 10, a friend of Tionda's, slowly walked a cement path behind Doolittle School trying to find any signs of the two girls.
"It's so shocking for them to just walk away like that," said Warfield. "I'm just praying we find them."
Family members said it was unlike Tionda to write a note, which is one of the reasons they believe the two girls were kidnapped. They said Tionda would not venture outside the apartment complex area. Neighbors said Tionda did stay close to home, though it was not uncommon to see her carrying around a set of keys to get into the apartment because her mother was away.
Standing in the hallway outside the apartment of the missing girls, family members described the two girls as smart, athletic and obedient.
Tionda won several awards at local Park District events for tumbling, running, and gymnastic, said Smith, her great-aunt.
"Tionda's a laugher. She would laugh at everything," Smith said. "Diamond mimicked her older sisters. She would follow them wherever they'd go."
Tionda is the second-oldest in a family of four daughters. Diamond is the youngest.
On Lake Michigan, seven officers in two search boats scoured the crowded waterfront from McCormick Place south to 51st Street. Most of the searching, though, was concentrated around 31st Street Beach, about a half-mile away from the girls' home, that is connected to the neighborhood by pedestrian bridges.
"It's a slim possibility, but kids are kids, you know?" said Officer Karen Brain.
'Little to work with'
"We're doing what we can. We really have very little to work with," said one patrol officer walking the neighborhood. "We're trying to keep all our avenues open and hope for the best."
Despite an afternoon soaked in sunshine, children were scarce Sunday among the jungle gyms and play lots surrounding Lake Grove Village.
"No one is letting their kids outside," said Frederick Ramsey, as he handed out fliers. "Usually this place is filled with kids."
His daughter, Twaneka, 7, is close friends with the missing girls, he said.
"I'm hopeful, but 72 hours is a long time, a long time to be missing," Ramsey said.