The atmosphere in the room at the Cobb Police & Fire substation on Factory Shoals Road in Mableton was thick with urgency, desperation and a strong sense of duty early Saturday morning.
Sgt. Dana Pierce, spokesman for the Cobb Police Department, was one of the last to arrive around 6 a.m. as nearly 90 law enforcement officials from Cobb Police, Cobb Fire, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Georgia State Patrol and the Child Abduction Response Team gathered ready to receive their instructions and spring into action to find a missing 5-year-old girl.
Taniya Gilbert went missing around 11:30 p.m. on Friday during a gathering of friends and family at Whisperwood Apartments in Austell.
After an unsuccessful search by civilians in the area, someone called 911 at 1:40 a.m.
A uniformed Precinct 2 officer dispatched to the scene quickly realized the severity of the situation, Pierce explained, and immediately called his supervisor.
They began a search of apartments, even utilizing a bloodhound from the Cobb Sheriff's Office.
More officers from various state agencies were brought in when the immediate search proved fruitless. In additon to the 90 or so law enforcement officials who arrived, a helicopter and a heat-sense device were employed in the search.
As he pulled into the police substation, it was apparent that they were dealing with a very grave situation.
Although Pierce said there was a "sense of urgency and emotion" in the converted command center, he and others were optimistic.
"Maybe a friend or family member took the 5-year-old to a safe place. Your mind starts there and mine did.
"One can't help but remember what happened a year ago at Christmas in Canton," Pierce said, referring to the tragic case of "We were dealing with the reality of what was unfolding."
Pierce said standing in the room as the newly established team was briefed and assigned various roles in the search operation, he felt proud.
"It is something for public safety to be proud of," Pierce said. "They can stand proud of the way this operation was put together to search for this 5-year-old."
Just as they dispersed determined to find the 5-year-old Taniya safe and sound, Capt. Jeff Adcock of Precinct 2 alerted them that a man who was at the apartment complex visiting a friend found her safe in the truck of his bed. He immediately brought her back to the complex.
"It was a very proud moment and a great relief that it came to a very happy end. I think we're all proud of each other for being able to do what we do every day," Pierce said.