Updated 07/06/11 – 6:37 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — It was 10 years ago Wednesday when Tionda and Diamond Bradley disappeared from their home on the city’s South Side, and the family says it feels like yesterday.
As WBBM Newsradio 780’s Steve Miller reports, the girls’ family is asking for the public’s help.
LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Steve Miller reports
If they are still alive, Tionda Bradley would be 20, while Diamond would be 13.
The Bradleys’ extended family comes together once a year, determined to keep the disappearance of Diamond and Tionda in the public eye. But it’s something they live with each and every day and have now, for 10 years.
The Bradley sisters’ great aunt, Sheila Bradley-Smith does not believe the girls are still alive. But she says she is hoping against the impossible that they might be.
Meanwhile, the scars of the girls’ disappearance are still fresh in the family’s mind.
“It still seems like yesterday to us,” Bradley-Smith said. “Time stands still totally for us.”
Because she believes the girls are probably dead, she is asking for some very specific help – to search for their bodies.
“Anyone with farmland that has abandoned barns or storehouses, I’m asking those people in particular to go out and survey and search on their land, places that they could have been buried,” she said.
Michael Carter, the girls’ oldest cousin, was 13 when they vanished.
“Some nights you lay awake at night, you’re wondering, your mind is racing and you lose a lot of sleep and it affects your life, your daily life,” Carter told CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley.
Police launched one of the biggest manhunts in Chicago history after the girls disappeared, searching open fields, railroad cars, and 5,000 abandoned buildings. It mostly turned up nothing.
Their grandmother, Mary Bradley, said she truly believes police have done everything they can to find Diamond and Tionda.
Today, Tionda would be 20, Diamond would be 13.
Sheila Bradley-Smith said she reached a new breaking point at a ceremony for missing children.
“As were were standing there lighting the candles, a person passed me a second candle and I was trying to give it back to the person, but then it finally occurred to me that i was the only one who had two candles,” she said. “And everyone else there had one.”
Family members have been living on hope but are realistic as well.
“I don’t know if they’re dead or alive. Hopefully, I wish they would be alive but if not, I’m prepared for it,” Mary Bradley said.
Police say the investigation into the girls’ disappearance is in the Cold Case Unit, and is a priority for the detective who is assigned to the case.
Bradley-Smith says she is encouraged by the new investigator, Det. Ed Carroll.
“He is really vigilant,” she said. “He’s a real go-getter.”
While police could not confirm it, Bradley-Smith says there are some promising leads in the case.
“Some valid tips have come in, and also some more evidence may have come in,” she said.
Family members still believe that someone saw something and knows something about what happened to the girls and that, eventually, they’ll talk.
Tionda and Diamond were last seen in their apartment complex near 35th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue on July 6, 2001. Their last communication was a note saying they were going to play at a park.
A Web site, FindTiondaAndDiamond.com, remained active for several years but has now been taken down. But another site mounted by Bradley-Smith is still active, and points out there is still at $30,000 reward in the case.
In 2008, a private detective concluded that a mysterious Internet picture that appeared on a MySpace profile was in, fact Tionda Bradley, but that conclusion later proved incorrect.
The family will hold a vigil Wednesday evening for the girls.