WATERLOO | On a blustery Friday morning, Ann Grove and Liberata Aung were going store-to-store in the Crossroads area of Waterloo.
The Waterloo women weren't shopping, however -- they had come for a purpose. They were searching for Moe Sed.
"They still haven't found him?" a woman at Dress Barn asked, surprised, taking a flier the women passed over.
"Does he speak English?" another woman asked at Hobby Lobby -- not an unusual question, since Sed is Burmese.
"He speaks English a little bit, but he's very shy," Grove said. "If you said hello to him, he would probably look down. But he's super polite," she added quickly.
Later, Grove would clarify to another store manager that Sed's "disability was such that he wouldn't likely come up to people to ask for help."
While no one would confirm Sed's disability except to say he had special needs, it's clear his family, friends, teachers and classmates at West High who joined a search for Sed on their day off Friday knew the high school junior needed extra help navigating through the community.
It's also why his family still holds out hope.
"I believe he's still alive," Sed's father, Phe Tu Lun, told reporters through an interpreter Friday. "I have faith in God, and if God touches his heart, he'll come home."
Sed was last seen at 11:30 a.m. Oct. 22 in the 1300 block of West Fourth Street. He's 18 years old, about 5 feet tall and weighs 150 pounds. His shoulder-length black hair featured red-dyed ends, which would definitely help him stick out in a crowd.
"We've been helping police communicate with the family. We've been sending people out every day since he's been missing," said Alicia Soppe, program manager at Ethnic Minorities of Burma Advocacy and Resource Center.
On the eighth day, sisters Liz and Katherine Wagner, who teach at Waterloo West, organized their fellow teachers and students to join in the efforts.
It was the perfect day for it, as Waterloo's schools were closed for parent-teacher conferences.
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"I know it's your day off," Liz Wagner told the crowd Friday morning, before sending them out to search. "Moe's father is also here. We're doing it for him and his family."
Katherine Wagner said she missed Sed in her English class.
"It's hard to see his desk empty," she said.
Shaw Reh came to help interpret because -- as a fellow Burmese -- he feels a kinship with Sed and his family, though he barely knew Sed.
"I saw him Saturday nights at worship. We didn't talk much," Reh said. "We're all worried sick, praying a lot."
Even as Grove and Aung hit their assigned stores, they ran into a pair of West High students overlapping their work -- done with their own stores, the boys were making sure the rest were done, too.
"Oh, that's a good sign," Grove said. "I love that kind of community spirit -- it helps a whole lot to counteract the bad stuff in the world."
A prayer service will be held at 5 p.m. today at First Baptist Church in Waterloo.
Authorities have received reports about possible sightings in recent days, but none of the reports have been confirmed, said Capt. David Mohlis with the Waterloo Police Department.
On Thursday, deputies with the Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Office launched a boat in the Cedar River near Evansdale and rode upstream to the West 11th Street bridge in Waterloo, searching the banks and using side-scan sonar.
Mohlis said there were no specific tips that lead to the boat search, but the craft allowed authorities to see areas that normally aren’t accessible by land. He said the police department has also requested that the Iowa State Patrol’s aircraft check areas when they are in the air.
If you have any information on Moe Sed's whereabouts, contact the Waterloo Police Department at 291-2515.
Courier Staff Writer Jeff Reinitz contributed to this report.