RANDOLPH — The reality of Brooke Bennett's disappearance really hit Jennifer Emmons when detectives stopped by the Randolph Village Laundromat to ask questions.
The North Main Street business is one of the last locations that witnesses saw Bennett, 12, sometime between the hours of 9 and 11 a.m. Wednesday morning, state police reported on Friday.
"It's not my kid, but I still feel for these parents," said Emmons whose son was in Bennett's seventh-grade class at Randolph High School. "My mother always said, 'there's got to be two of you.'"
Standing in front of a flier of Bennett with "Missing" written across the top, Emmons said the search for the girl, who has not been seen since she was dropped off in Randolph Wednesday, has been the talk of the town. She and other parents had been talking, fighting disbelief and admitting that there is no such thing as being too smothering.
From Bethel to Randolph and throughout central Vermont, talk of the young girl having vanished was on the tongues of everyone, even those without children. Most asked how anyone could be capable of an abduction, though no one is clear on what has happened to Bennett.
Those closest to Bennett's age are especially leery about her disappearance and the information that has surfaced in the last couple of days, including the fact some of her clothing was found on Route 65 in Brookfield.
State Police Col. Baker stated during a morning press conference that his hope is that the community would not be scared, but instead focus on caution and trust that the police are doing their jobs. There are 30 detectives interviewing witnesses and following up on leads, Baker said.
Fliers with Bennett's photo were posted in the windows of businesses throughout downtown and life seemed to bustle as usual, but with the occasional mention of the missing girl. Rumors – discredited by police Friday afternoon – of her body being found in Sunset Lake were flying around in the shops and restaurants.
"We are gravely concerned about the wellbeing of Brooke Bennett," said Baker. "This case is very much centered around and about social networking online."
And as long as there is access to the World Wide Web, children everywhere are vulnerable.