"Child Missing!" It sounds like something you'd hear on the news or see in a TV movie. But that headline became my reality last spring when I endured the longest 22 hours of my life -- waiting, hoping, and praying for my 3-year-old daughter Jenna's safe return.
The agonizing ordeal began when my mother -- who lives in the same suburban Michigan neighborhood as I do -- stopped by our house on a Saturday afternoon and offered to take Jenna toy shopping. I was eager for some time alone so I could clean the house, and my husband, Doug, wanted to work in the yard. So we encouraged Jenna, who was a bit reluctant, to go with her grandma.
About an hour later, I saw my dad pull up outside. As soon as he got out of his car, I knew something was wrong. "Someone took your mother's car," he yelled as he ran into the house. "And Jenna was in it."
Pale and winded, my father tried to explain what had happened: My mom had been in line at the toy store when a man approached her, asking whether she was the owner of the burgundy Mercury Sable parked outside. When she said yes, he told her she had a flat tire and volunteered to change it. The man seemed perfectly nice, so she accepted his offer.
When the tire was fixed, my mom thanked the good samaritan, gave him some money, and buckled Jenna into her car seat. He then suggested she let him test the steering, so my mom handed him her keys. He got into the driver's seat -- and sped off.