HAYWARD -- More than 200 friends, relatives and well-wishers gathered Friday night at a rain- and tear-streaked rally at the site where nursing student Michelle Le's car was found after she went missing one week before.
"She would be so surprised to see so many people," said cousin Krystine Dinh. "She has always been so modest about how many people love her."
Le, 26, disappeared after telling colleagues that she was going to fetch something from her car during a 7 p.m. break from her duties at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, where she shadowed medical workers as part of her nursing curriculum. Her locked 2010 Honda CRV was found on Ponderosa Court, about a half-mile away.
"She wanted to follow her mother's footsteps to become a nurse," said her father, Son Le. "It was partly because she wanted to pay something back to society."
Dinh described Michelle Le as an empathetic woman who found her calling in nursing after losing her mother to breast cancer. Her teachers and colleagues called her an apt, energetic study, prone to taking on so many things at once that she'd be told to slow down.
"She worked so hard to get where she is, and loved being a nurse," Dinh said. "She would never walk away from that."
She is part of a close-knit family who flocked to the area upon hearing news of Le's disappearance, eager to do anything to help find their loved one.
"It's been an emotional roller coaster," said her brother, Michael Le. "People ask me what I'm going to do the next day. I don't know. Maybe I'll be hanging up fliers, doing media interviews, trying to get more billboards up. If she's not found, I'm going to have a long day trying to find her."
The family announced that a reward for information leading to Le has been raised from $20,000 to $40,000, with contributions coming from unnamed sources outside the family.
Police had no breaks to announce Friday, but added that "investigators will continue throughout the weekend to identify and pursue every possible lead."
Those leads include Le's cellphone records and frame-by-frame analysis of every camera mounted in the Kaiser parking structure.
Lt. Roger Keener added that the FBI was contacted shortly after Le's disappearance and has made "every appropriate resource available to us in this effort."
Le's family praised the authorities' work, and added that the community outpouring has been tremendous.
"I strongly believe the community can help bring her back," said her father. "We have to hold on, have to pray, have to do whatever we can to bring her back."
Le is 5 feet 6 with black hair and brown eyes, and was wearing white nurse scrubs at the time of her disappearance. Police have set up a hotline for information at 510-293-5051. The family has also set up a website at http://michellelemissing.com.