When I heard the news...
When I heard the news, I felt my legs collapse. I grabbed my husband and yelled, "Go find her." He raced off to the toy store to meet the cops, and a neighbor came to stay with me. As the reality of what happened began to sink in, I got hysterical, unable to stop sobbing. I felt sick to my stomach, as if I were going to faint.
Meanwhile, police had put out a bulletin alerting local precincts to be on the lookout for my mother's car. Because my mom didn't know her license-plate number and it had to be tracked down, it took a while before police could activate an Amber Alert -- the new emergency system that sends out notification that a child is missing. But once the alert was issued, my daughter's abduction became nationwide news.
Over the next several hours, I alternated between feeling completely numb and totally terrified. I kept thinking how scared and lonely my daughter must feel. And I worried about the dangers she faced. The man had known she was there, so he clearly wasn't just trying to steal a car. What did he want with her?
Time passed like an eternity. Family members and friends stayed with us until late in the evening. Finally, Doug and I crawled into bed at about 2 a.m., but neither of us could sleep. We cuddled together and just listened to each other cry. Dark thoughts clouded my mind. I'd always heard that if you don't find an abducted child within the first 24 hours, odds are you won't find her alive. I stared at the ceiling thinking that time was running out.
By 6 a.m. the next morning, our fighter instincts had taken over, and the house quickly became command central. Neighbors helped make flyers and organize search teams. I drew maps of the neighborhoods to hand out to the scores of volunteers. I felt energized by the fact that there was something I could do.
Our efforts were interrupted at about noon when the cops called, asking me, Doug, and my mom to come to the station. They needed to talk to us as part of their investigation, which is routine in such situations. When we were finished there, I looked at my watch and noticed it was 1:30 p.m. I felt sick as I realized that time was closing in on our chances of finding Jenna alive. I was fixated on the 24-hour statistic.
Just then, my cell phone rang. It was my friend, Natalie, calling from my house. Her words are forever etched in my memory: "They found Jenna," Natalie yelled. "And she's fine!" I could hear a lot of cheering and screaming in the background. I started crying and shaking. "They found my baby," I screamed out.