For many, Laura Vogel may just be a smiling face on a missing persons poster. But if you meet anyone who knows her, it’s patently clear that Laura, a beloved daughter, sister, friend and mentor, has irretrievably touched the lives of so many—and continues to do so today.
By all accounts, Laura, a former high school science teacher from Albuquerque, N.M., is described as a vibrant, athletic and friendly young woman who possesses a boundless level of energy and an intrinsic fascination with the world around her.
“She’s a kid in an adult body,” said Tim Vogel, Laura’s younger brother. “She has a ‘kid-like’ wonderment about the world and an incredible amount of energy.”
Ha‘ikū resident Laura Vogel disappeared near the Pauwela Birthing Pools on Sunday, Feb. 21. Anyone with information about this case is urged to contact the Maui Police Department Criminal Investigation Division at 244-6425.
According to her family, she is best known as a “teacher, avid hiker, camper, surfer, stargazer, birder, tree-hugger, nature-lover and lover of life.”
Laura moved to Maui six months ago to work as a freelance tutor after spending nearly nine years living and working on O‘ahu and Hawai‘i Island. In just six months, she found her own extended ‘ohana, taught others about sustainable living and organic gardening, and spent hours volunteering to preserve and protect Maui’s precious ‘āina.
“She’s simply amazing,” said Tim. “She has the biggest heart [and] she’d do anything for people… and animals, too.” On one occasion, he said, Laura dived into rough ocean waters to rescue a distressed sea turtle that had been caught in a fishing line. “She put herself at risk,” he said. “But she was only concerned for the welfare of that sea turtle… that’s just the kind of person she is.”
Ha‘ikū resident Me-Shell Mijangos recalled the day she met her friend. “The moment I met Laura, it was instant sisterhood,” she said. “Our common passion for surfing and the ocean likened our friendship to that of a 20-year relationship in less than a year’s time… it was all Laura’s doing.” Echoing the words of so many others, Mijangos said, “She has a very open and accepting heart, a genuine caring for others, and most of all, a contagious personality that brings people in… it brought me in.”
Mijangos is one of several who share “Lauralight,” a “pay-it-forward” philosophy that has coursed through organized searches and candlelight vigils since Laura disappeared.
“A ‘Lauralight’ is someone whose life has been touched by Laura’s light and [who] commits not only to keeping it alive, but to sharing and spreading the light to others,” said New Mexico resident Kris Sleicher, a longtime friend of the Vogel family. “I find myself wondering throughout my days, ‘What would Laura do?’” As more begin to discover Lauralight, she said, “Let’s keep the light going and bring Laura home safe and sound. Send the energy, and keep it coming… we are Lauralights.”
Like Sleicher, Mijangos has discovered her own Lauralight. “I’m so grateful to have met someone who has had such a big impact in my life in such a short time,” she said. “For this, I am truly blessed. I am also a Lauralight and will be spreading Laura’s memory and loving kindness to others.”
After several weeks of scouring the Pauwela area aided by dozens of volunteer searchers, law enforcement teams, search dogs and drone airplanes, the Vogel family returned to the Mainland, disappointed but not disheartened.
“We’ve done the best job we can searching physically,” said Tim. “Now we are in the information gathering stage.” He commended police and fire department officials for their efforts, as well as the Maui community. “The community has been so warm and supportive to us,” he said. “There are not enough words to express my gratitude.”
In an open letter posted on findlauravogel.blogspot.com, the family wrote, “Through the tragedy of our daughter’s/sister’s disappearance, our family was privileged to meet the wonderful people of Maui… Your prayers sustained us and helped us retain our faith and belief that we would be successful in our search for answers to what happened to our beloved Laura. You showed us how many good friends Laura made during her short time on your beautiful island. We are humbled by the obvious impact she had on those she met and embraced while she was here.”
In addition, the family requested, “If you wish to honor Laura, please consider donating some of your free time to ecological projects. This could be as simple as use, reuse, recycle or as time-intensive as picking up the trash off the highways and byways of your neighborhood. Teach your children to respect their surroundings and protect this planet of ours. In that way, you will be carrying on work that Laura was passionate about.”
Tim assured he and his family will not abandon the search—or hope. “We have two objectives,” he said. “The first is to bring Laura home, and the second is to make sure that this never happens to anyone again.”
The Vogel family is offering a $10,000 reward for any information that will lead to finding Laura. She is described as Caucasian, 5 feet 8 inches tall, 140 pounds with blond hair and blue eyes.