Lightroom does not keep the original copy of images through the Import process.
It imports the images, generates the preview for them and links with the destination location that you chose while importing them.
If you are able to see those images in Lightroom, right click/command click on any of the image and choose "Show in Explorer/finder" which would reveal your actual raw files.
Let us know if you have any other queries.
Your raw images are not "in" Lightroom. When you set up your import options, you choose the folder and drive that will be the destination for the import. The images are imported to that location. I think you are probably just looking at preview files. Lightroom does not reduce the size or change the image in any way. You might want to use your system browser (File Explorer or Finder) to browse your hard drive(s) to locate your images.
I imported all of my photos after a photo shoot and then I erased the card. I realized the files in Lightroom are only 500 KB but I need the larger raw files. Now that my card is erased, is there any hope of finding them in Lightroom somewhere?
In Lightroom, you can find the exact location of your photos by right-clicking on any photo in Lightroom and select Show In Explorer (Windows) or Show in Finder (Mac)
Thanks for your quick response. I'm actually helping a friend and I've never used LR before. I quit the current catalog trying to open from a back up. How do I get her catalog back so we can see the thumb nails and try what you mentioned above?
You can go to File->Open Recent, and there will be a list of all the catalogs that have been opened. All you need to do is choose the other catalog and Lightroom will switch to it.