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'I have no idea what happened to my baby': Family of missing Unadilla girl still hoping for answers after 23 years

The girl went missing in 1998 while waiting on her older sister to go to a football game

MACON, Ga. — A mother's pain continues more than two decades later.

"For 23 years, I have no idea what happened to my baby. It's like the ground opened up and she disappeared," she said.

Veronica Pate is the mother of Shy'Kemmia "Shy Shy" Pate, the 8-year-old girl whose family believes was kidnapped in Unadilla.

"I slept in a chair at my front door for two years without going to bed, with my door unlocked, thinking my baby was just going to walk in one day. She hasn't walked in yet," she recalled.

The night she went missing is a memory her aunt Rotando Freeman says she'll never forget.  

"I was at work, so when I got home, I had all these missed calls, so I was like, 'Why is everybody calling me? Something has to be wrong,' so when I finally got in touch with them, they were like, 'Shy is missing,'" Freeman said. 

With no new developments on the case, the family keeps her name alive through walks, interviews, and this weekend, a balloon release. 

"I just want the community to come out and help me celebrate that we're looking for her, let her know she's still being searched for-- not forgotten," Pate said. 

Her aunt says she thought it would never be them.

"People always say, 'My kid won't be kidnapped,' or, 'It won't happen to me.' We all thought that; we all thought it was something that happened on TV, that it was a movie scene, but until you are living it, it is not a movie scene," she said tearfully.

The family still holds out hope for a real-life happy ending, but they know that has to start with people coming forward, and as they wait, they share this warning.

"I just want people to just watch your kids, pay attention. If we can get people to just pay attention to kids or your surroundings, it's important," Pate said.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation says there are no new developments in the case.

Her family says they'll continue to honor "Shy Shy" through walks, a nonprofit, and helping families search for other missing children. 

A balloon release in her honor happens Sept. 4 in Unadilla at the location she was last seen on Crumpler Avenue.

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