JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Whenever a child is missing, it is so important to get the word out as quickly as possible. When middle-school friends Mark Degner and Brian Hayes disappeared nearly 10 years ago -- their story didn't get media attention until a week later.
It was eight years ago Linda Alligood saw her son for the last time. Mark was 12 and Brian was 13 on Feb. 10, 2005 when they apparently walked away from Paxon Middle School. Mark's mom thought she'd certainly know something by now about his whereabouts.
"It gets harder every year. You never give up hope. You always hope one day he's going to come home and say, 'I'm OK,'" says Alligood.
It took police a full week to announce the boys were missing because they first believed the two had just run away. Alligood always thought there was more to it.
"I honestly think they got in a vehicle with someone that they thought they knew, or someone tricked them into getting into their vehicle," says Alligood.
A gnawing pain that's always there, especially when other children go missing.
When Cherish Perrywinkle disappeared with a sex offender last month and was found dead the next morning, she felt the pain. And when missing children are found alive it gives her hope.
Alligood says it's a constant emotional roller coaster.
"It gives me hope that maybe this could be me. Maybe not right now but years down the line maybe this could be me that he's safe and I'll actually see him one day," says Alligood.
Ann Dugger with the Justice Coalition works with the parents living the nightmare. As an advocate she tries to have hope, just like these parents, that one day they'll get some answers.
"Those boys didn't go missing that day without someone knowing about it. Today, somebody knows information that could bring those men home and let those mamas know that their babies are OK," says Dugger.
Alligood says it was especially difficult when age progression pictures came out several years ago showing what the boys would look like as young adults.
"I could have lost it. That could have been him I still find myself looking even though it may not be him. I still find myself taking a second glance," says Alligood.
She wants her son to know if he's out there that she loves and misses him and she just wants to hear from him.
Dugger said they still get leads every now and then from people who think they spotted the boys but nothing substantial has ever surfaced. It's still a mystery as to where they are and what took place that afternoon back in 2005.
Copyright 2013 by News4Jax.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.