It's the phone call no parent wants to make — the one to say a child has gone missing.
But what about the person on the other line, the one who takes such calls day after day?
Cindy Rudometkin has been doing so from an old, faded pink building tucked behind Petaluma Market for 14 years this August.
The slight, blonde woman answers the phone near a purple sign that reads "Polly's Hotline." Faces of missing children hang near the sign, a haunting reminder of what her vocation is all about.
The organization Rudometkin works for is the Polly Klaas Foundation, which was created after Polly Klaas, a 12-year-old Petaluma girl, was abducted by a stranger in 1993.
An exhaustive search for Polly galvanized the community and the country, but the search ended in tragedy when she was found dead two months later.
For almost 20 years now, the foundation has quietly carried on the work of preventing child abductions and helping families find missing children in Polly's name, sending out missing children fliers, counseling families and working with other agencies like police departments.
Rudometkin, from Novato, had just graduated from high school when Polly went missing. She can still remember the frustration she felt.
"All you could do was watch the news, wait and wonder," she said. "I wanted to get in the trenches."
Six years later, Rudometkin graduated with a degree in psychology and plans to be an environmental lawyer. But when she went to a law school orientation, she realized the career was not for her. When she saw an employment ad for a position at the Polly Klaas Foundation, she applied.
Rudometkin, who now manages the foundation's response department, remembers spending her first weeks on the job reading through cases to prepare for the calls she'd be getting. She described it as "intense, frightening."
Finally, she took an actual call. Rudometkin thinks it was about a teen who ran away after meeting an adult on a telephone chat line. The teen ultimately came home safely. Still, the urgency of that first case sent Rudometkin's adrenaline "through the roof," she recalled. "I had an instant headache."
It was like that for the first year, each call urgent and challenging in its own way.
Fourteen years later, Rudometkin says she is still learning from every case, but that experience has made her calm and confident.
"Back then, I didn't know what to say," she recalled. "After a while, you just know."
It's not an easy job, and it's made all the more challenging by how few can relate to it. Other people, she said, prefer not to talk about her work when they learn what she does. "It's everyone's worst nightmare, it's taboo to people," she said.
But Rudometkin says she's never wanted to quit. She attributes that to in part to her coworkers.
Across from her sits the only person who can fully understand her job, Cathie Sanchez, the foundation's other full-time case worker. Sanchez started just months before Rudometkin.
"After all those years, we still love our job," Rudometkin said. "There's something special about this place, a sense of mission. We have Polly to look at and remember."
Across the building from the "Polly's Hotline" sign and the pictures of missing children, another collage greets visitors to the Polly Klaas Foundation — one filled with the faces of children who have returned home.