STAPLETON — Relatives of a Staten Island woman who went missing while on vacation in Turkey headed to Istanbul this weekend to search for her.
Sarai Sierra, 33, departed for a two-week vacation to Turkey by herself on Jan. 7. The mother of two was supposed to return home last Tuesday, but when her father went to pick her up from Newark Airport, Sierra never showed.
“It’s not like my daughter to just not show up,” Betzaida Jimenez, Sierra’s mother, said at her home Monday. “She always informed us, and me and her have a very close relationship. This is the first time that she’s taken a trip by herself.”
On Jan. 21, the day before her flight home was scheduled, Sierra spoke to her sister via phone to confirm the travel details, her mother said. Sierra said she was going to visit the Galata Bridge to take some photographs as her last stop in Turkey.
Her family told the Associated Press that Sierra's husband tried to reach her at her last known hostel after she failed to show up at the airport, but the owner said she was gone. Her passport, chargers and other items were left in the room, the Associated Press reported.
"It looked like she was just stepping out," Sierra's brother told the AP.
Sierra’s husband, Steve Sierra, and her brother, David Jimenez, left on Sunday, to help the U.S. Embassy in Istanbul search for her, the AP reported.
Betzaida Jimenez said that throughout the trip Sierra kept in constant contact with her family, and she posted several pictures of her trip on Instagram.
“Through Skype, phone calls and texting, every day she would let us know what she did and where she went,” Betzaida Jimenez said.
Sierra had planned the trip since Thanksgiving, and she was originally planning to go with a friend who later couldn't make it.
At first, her family was worried about the trip, but when they saw how thoroughly Sierra had planned it out, they were reassured, Betzaida Jimenez said.
“At first when she mentioned it to us, [we] were...a little nervous,” Jimenez said. “She did research, she said that it was a very tourist[y] place.”
Jimenez said Sierra never walked alone at night and mostly stayed with tour groups throughout her trip.
In her spare time, Sierra was an avid photographer, relatives said.
“She loved photography,” Jimenez said. “She liked sunsets and she loved bridges.”
For now, Jimenez said the family has tried to keep Sierra’s children, age 9 and 11, unaware of the fears about their mother.
“We’re trying to protect the children,” she said.