There was an outpouring of hope, tears and prayers Thursday evening at an emotional candlelight vigil for a missing five-year-old Calgary boy and his grandparents.
"We're very hopeful that they're out there. There's no doubt in our mind," said the boy's mother, Jennifer O'Brien, choking back tears as her husband, Rod, stood with his arm around her shoulders.
"We've just got to find them and the police are doing everything they can do. I'm hopeful in every way and we all are. I hope this turns out to be a happy story and I think it's going to."
Nathan O'Brien and his grandparents, Kathryn and Alvin Liknes, haven't been seen since June 29 after what police say was a violent incident in the Liknes home. The couple had been having an estate sale and were downsizing ahead of a move to a home in Edmonton and then on to Mexico. Nathan was at their house for a sleepover.
About 500 people turned out for a candlelight vigil at the Parkhill Community Centre, just around the corner from the Liknes home.
Green ribbons, recognized as a symbol to remember missing children, were handed out to those attending. A moment of silence was held followed by a lighting of the candles. Throughout the ceremony, tears streamed down faces and some people were sobbing.
About a dozen friends and family members slowly made their way up to the microphone, sharing anecdotes and hoping for the best.
"I like to think of this whole thing as just a way to keep the flame going," said Jeff Liknes, Kathryn and Alvin's son.
"I don't want to think of this like a funeral because I know it's not one. I'd love to see them again."
Randy Prevost, Kathryn Liknes's brother, told reporters he wanted to help in the search, but police asked the family to not get involved in the investigation. He remains hopeful, but said it has been a tough two weeks.
"Never in my wildest dreams could I imagine anything like this," he said. "You've watched movies and seen things like this, but it's not real."
He repeated the family's mantra of holding onto hope.
"I just want to look into each one of their eyes and cry for a while because it's going to be a gracious moment when it does come around."
The search for the missing family entered its 11th day Thursday, but Brookwell said police are also not giving up hope the three will be found alive.
"Until we get the information or evidence to change that, and at this point we have not," he said. "We are hopeful and will remain that way until something changes."