"We have a long journey ahead of us."
Elaine Hatfield Hall said this at a press conference Tuesday, and it reminded me of the first vigil for her missing son Dylan Redwine, which was organized by my friend and employee, Denise Hess, with help from other community volunteers.
It was about a week after his disappearance, and we gathered at the pavilion in Eagle Park. We had no idea where this 13-year-old had gone, how he had vanished so quickly, leaving no trace.
Holding hands at the end of the event, the Rev. Dan Straw led us in prayer. He said this search wasn't going to be a sprint; it was going to be a long run.
Unfortunately, he was correct.
After four-and-a-half years, it has, indeed, been an exceedingly long run.
For many people, the arrest of Mark Redwine, Dylan's father, has brought a sigh of relief.
There are others who insist Redwine is innocent and he deserves a fair trial.
Yes, Mark Redwine does deserve a fair trial.
Whoever killed Dylan Redwine took away the sense of innocence that many of us had in the Vallecito and Bayfield communities.
We started watching our kids as they played outside and made them check in more often before they headed to friends' houses.
I still remember my son's puzzled look when I told him he couldn't go to the park by himself to meet his friends, I would have to walk the two blocks down the street with him.
We didn't know what had happened to one of our boys, and we didn't know if our own children were safe.
Slowly, things returned back to normal, but not quite. We still didn't know.
Finally, in 2013, part of Dylan's remains were found on Middle Mountain.
Later, the sheriff's office said his disappearance was a homicide, and that Mark Redwine was a person of interest.
Our nightmares were coming true. A father, a person a child should be able to depend on for love and protection, a member of our own community, was possibly a suspect in the case.
Hall does not focus on the length of time between her son's disappearance and the arrest of her ex-husband.
"The focus right now is on Dylan and the sweet gentle soul that he was," she said on Tuesday. He would have wanted his mother, step-father and brother to continue their lives, "so we try to live for him and be his voice every day. That's never stopped and it won't stop."
As much of being the mother of a child who dies is bad enough, being the mother of a murdered child must be even worse.
"Thank you everybody for helping in this journey," she said. "We could not have done it without you."
She then received hugs from Dylan's friends. Most of them graduated this spring from Bayfield High School. They're heading off to college, to work, or to join the military.
Their lives go on, as they should.
Our lives do, as well, but those of us who knew Dylan and Elaine and Cory will always glance at Dylan's bench as we drive by Pine River Cemetery. We'll always wonder what he would be like now, what he would be doing with his friends.
We all hope for justice on this final leg of a sad, long journey, whatever that justice may be.