Facebook connects families awaiting word on identities of bodies found on Long Island

Posted Dec. 17, 2010, at 11:10 p.m.

NEW YORK — A Maine woman waiting to see if her missing daughter is among four bodies discovered on New York’s Long Island this week found this message on her Facebook page Thursday night: “Hi Lorraine, your family is in my prayers Don’t give up.”

The message was from Sherre Gilbert, 23, of upstate Ellenville, N.Y., sister of Shannan Gilbert, 24, a missing woman last seen May 1 in Oak Beach.

It was sent to Lorraine Ela, mother of Megan Waterman, 22, who was last seen on June 6 at a Holiday Inn in Hauppauge, N.Y.

Until this week, Sherre Gilbert and Ela, 43, of South Portland, Maine, were strangers living hundreds of miles apart. The discovery of four sets of female remains in Gilgo Beach, however, has forged a bond between the two families desperate to learn what’s become of their loved ones.

“They (the Gilberts) know what I am going through,” Ela said in an interview at her home Friday. “I know what they are going through.”

Both Shannan Gilbert and Megan Waterman worked as prostitutes and traveled to Suffolk County, N.Y., to meet up with clients, police have said.

Each of their families has been conducting separate searches for the young women who vanished in Suffolk County in the spring.

Though tragic circumstances made them aware of each other’s existence, both Sherre Gilbert and Ela said Friday they find comfort and support in knowing one another.

Late Thursday afternoon, Gilbert’s family learned none of the four sets of human remains was Shannan’s.

Several hours after learning the news, Sherre Gilbert posted the message on Ela’s Facebook page, offering words of encouragement. She and her family had been in Ela’s shoes, she said.

“I just felt for her,” Sherre said Friday in a telephone interview. “I felt that we knew that this was something we’re going through together.”

And the response came quickly. “My thoughts and prayers go out to you and your family that Shannan is safe and unharmed,” Ela wrote back.

On Wednesday, Ela gave police a sample of her saliva so authorities can match her genetic material against DNA taken from the four sets of remains. Ela said saliva samples were also taken from Waterman’s father and Waterman’s 4-year-old daughter.

For now, Ela waits.

Some day, Sherre Gilbert said, she would like to meet Ela and her family.

“It’s just sad that a lot of people have to come together this way,” Sherre Gilbert said.

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