News from the Tennessee Valley State, Local and National news
MONDAY, JUNE 27, 2005

Hundreds at benefit for Natalee

MOUNTAIN BROOK (AP) — Several hundred people, including classmates who traveled to Aruba with missing teen Natalee Holloway, attended a hometown fund-raiser for the Holloway family.

Holloway, 18, went missing May 30 on a Mountain Brook High School graduation trip to the Caribbean island with classmates and chaperones.

At the fund-raiser, a group of six Mountain Brook teenage girls put on matching silver wishbone necklaces, a sign of their lasting friendship.

"Natalee still has hers," Mallie Tucker said at the concert raising money for the search for Holloway. "Natalee is my best friend and I'd do anything to bring her home."

"We just get together and pray," said Frances Ellen Byrd, also wearing her wishbone necklace. "We can't wait for her to get home."

Byrd was at Carlos' N' Charlie's in Aruba the night Holloway disappeared. "I never saw her when she left," Byrd said. "It was closing time and everyone was leaving."

She said that Holloway was with 17-year-old Joran van der Sloot — now detained by police in her disappearance — as early as 9:30 p.m. the night of the disappearance, before leaving with him after the bar closed at 1 a.m.

She said it was hard to keep track of all the 124 Mountain Brook High School students as they left the bar.

"I don't blame anyone," Byrd said.

But there is still guilt, some of Holloway's fellow students said.

"A lot of us feel personal guilt," said Milner Owens, who was on the trip to Aruba. "People are trying not to relive it. I wish we had done something. We've all learned a lesson from this. We've changed. Life is altered."

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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