The mother of missing teen Brittanee Drexel calls the past year a living nightmare that won't end.
"It's the most horrible thing you ever want to go through," Dawn Drexel said during a recent interview.
On April 25, 2009, Dawn's first-born child, Brittanee, vanished from Ocean Boulevard while on spring break.
The then-17-year-old was last seen leaving the Blue Water Resort near 20th Avenue South and Ocean Boulevard, and no one has seen her since.
This time last year, Brittanee, from Rochester, NY, was juggling a lot with her mom and dad's divorce, boyfriend troubles and even a bout of depression.
So it was no surprise Brittanee wanted a break and begged her mother for permission to visit Myrtle Beach for her high school spring break.
When Dawn Drexel told her daughter no, Brittanee became angry and the two began to fight. Exhausted, Dawn allowed Brittanee to go stay a couple of nights with a friend in Rochester.
But that was a lie as Dawn found out later, and Brittanee disobeyed her mother and went to Myrtle Beach anyway.
Many have come down hard on Dawn and accused her of being a bad parent -- an accusation Dawn vehemently dismisses.
"You know what? Brit's a teenager," Dawn explained. "We were all teens once. They (Dawn's critics) have done things their parents wouldn't approve of. ... Don't throw a rock at a glass house."
Dawn speaks lovingly of Brittanee and describes her first-born as a "lovable little girl" who loved everyone.
Home videos of Brittanee show a seven-year-old girl on Christmas morning overwhelmed with excitement as she opened a new "Lion King" toy and impersonated one of the characters.
"She would sit there and put a show on for us. She'd sing and dance. She loved to have an audience," Dawn said.
But as most teens do, Brittanee got older and traded in the toys for cell phones and boyfriends.
"As she started getting older, she wanted to be more with her friends," Dawn said. "They didn't want to hang out with their mom and dad. God forbid you kiss them in front of anybody," Dawn said with a laugh.
One of those friends is Tarah Friedman, who's a few years older than Brittanee, but said they two were like sisters.
"When I think of her, I just think of her smile, her laugh. She was always laughing, such a happy person," Friedman said as she described Brittanee.
Besides friends and high school life, Brittanee had bigger plans. She loved cosmetology, soccer and modeling. Just before she vanished, though, she had a change of heart while at a hospital one evening.
"She says 'mom, I think I'm going to go to school to be a nurse ... she wanted to be in the maternity ward and take care of the babies," Dawn recalled.
And Brittanee wanted children of her own one day, and Dawn said she talked about "Mr. Right" often.
"She was always talked about how she was going to make her husband cook and how many kids she was going to have."
But all of those big plans came to a halt last year with Brittanee's disappearance, and the news has rocked Brittanee's friends and family.
"It's like something is missing from you. And then you see it on TV, and it's just a reminder that she's really, really gone, and nobody can find her," Friedman, the best friend, explained.
No one knows that better than Dawn who holds on to hope that her daughter will come home alive, but who also knows that may not be reality.
"For her to go through something like that just kills. I mean as a parent, you'd rather have it done to yourself than your child," Dawn said. "Nobody, I mean nobody wishes that on anybody."
Recently, this reporter broke the news that police have developed people of interest and a location of interest in Brittanee's case, and the detectives have said they are close to offering closure.
"It's just a matter of time now before everything gets put together, and we can say yes, here's a solid arrest," said Myrtle Beach Detective Vincent Dorio.
Check back Tuesday on CarolinaLive.com and NewsChannel 15 at 6:00 p.m. for part two of this story that'll take a closer look at the latest on the investigation.
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