LANGLEY (NEWS 1130) — Naomi Onotera loves teaching kids how to read. Before she disappeared 10 days ago, the 40-year-old mother — who works as a teacher-librarian at Surrey’s Katzie Elementary — was looking forward to heading back to school.
Onotera was dedicated to her job, and her sister, Kirsten Kerr, says she knows the absence was deeply felt as kids headed back to class Tuesday.
“She’s one of the teacher-librarians there and so she sees a lot of the kids in the school, I’m sure they’re missing her. She loves teaching.”
For Onotera’s family, the shock is almost overwhelming — but they have fierce hope that she will be found safe.
“It’s been surreal, and our whole family’s worst nightmare. We never expected anything like this to ever happen. We just miss her a lot. We just want to see her again, we want to have holidays with her, we want to have summers with her,” Kerr tells NEWS 1130 through tears.
Onotera was last seen leaving her home near 200 Street and 50 Avenue in Langley on Aug 28. Police have appealed to people who live in the area, or who were driving through for any security or dashcam footage captured between 6 p.m. on Aug. 28 and 7 a.m. on Aug. 29.
Volunteers in the community, organizing online through a Facebook group, have blanketed parts of the Lower Mainland with posters pleading for information to help locate Onotera.
But Kerr wants people to understand who her sister is, and why she is so desperately missed by those who know and love her.
“She’s a wonderful person. She’s a wonderful sister to me, and a daughter. She’s a loving mother and wife. She loves her family. I know she does,” Kerr says.
“I would do anything for her.”
Naomi Onotera has been missing from Langley for more than 10 days. I spoke with her sister. "She loves to teach kids how to read. She's a wonderful sister to me, and daughter. She's a loving mother and wife. We just want to see her again. It's been our family's worst nightmare." pic.twitter.com/in403TOnHj
— Lisa Steacy (@lisa_steacy) September 9, 2021
The outpouring of support, both online and in-person, is something Kerr says has been “invaluable” as the family struggles.
“The community helping put up posters, going on searches, the words of hope and the words of love for my sister — even from strangers — it’s been mind-blowing just how much the community has reached out and have supported us in helping to find my sister,” she says, adding she hopes people continue to help with the search however they can.
“We miss her so much. We just want her back. We are so thankful and so grateful to the community for everything that they’ve done. We couldn’t ask for a better response — but we just have to keep getting her name out there, getting her face out there.”
Langley RCMP’s serious crime unit is handling the case, but Corp. Holly Largy has explained that this move was for procedural and practical reasons, and warned people against drawing any conclusions.
“It isn’t necessarily an indication of a major crime,” she told NEWS 1130 last week, adding detectives in the unit are better equipped to handle this kind of ongoing investigation than the duty officers who first took the missing persons call.
“There are a number of people that are working on it, because it’s still very concerning that this young woman is missing.”
A candlelight vigil held over the weekend drew dozens of people to Langley’s Sendall Botanical Gardens. Others posted pictures online, lending their support from afar.
A dedicated tip line has been set up for anyone who has information about Onotera’s disappearance, the number is 604-532-3398. Anyone with information “requiring an immediate response” is asked to call the non-emergency line at 604-532-3200.
“If there’s any information or any video footage or any dashcam footage that anyone has — send it along to the police,” Kerr says.
“Even if they think it’s insignificant — go to them.”