Books Kidnap Kids Little Kids Parenting Personal Essay Safety

I Thought My Daughter Had Been Kidnapped



Kidnapping. It is each mother or father’s worst nightmare. Whether or not you are a brand-new dad or mum or a consummate professional at protecting little ones protected, all of us share this common worry.

When I was writing a novel about kidnapping, I conjured up worst-case situations in my head. I spent many hours in a daze making a story a few 5-year-old who goes lacking from her personal yard. When I was carried out for the day, I would examine on my then-5-year-old in our yard, the place I was met with the acquainted and comforting sight of her. My daughter hadn’t vanished . . . but.

When I determined to put in writing Not Her Daughter, I needed to show kidnapping on its head. Is it ever justified? Might you’re taking a toddler to probably save them? As I created these characters and ethical dilemmas, I disappeared into the bubble so many authors expertise: full obsessive immersion.

In at this time’s oversaturated world, kidnappings aren’t the “news” they as soon as have been. AMBER Alerts are forgotten with the swipe of a finger, there are not any extra youngsters on the backs of milk cartons, and full communities not often come collectively to seek for one lacking baby. As I researched the statistics of lacking youngsters in the USA — 800,000 per yr — I started to thank God that I solely have one youngster to maintain up with. One baby to maintain protected.

When I lastly shook myself free from my analysis and novel, I felt my nerves untangle. I’d written a e-book about kidnapping and no one went lacking! My youngster was nonetheless protected! She did not disappear! That’s till one fateful morning when my husband took my daughter to high school.

Absent. My coronary heart started to pound so violently, I feared imminent dying from a coronary heart assault. How might my daughter be absent? My husband dropped her off that very morning at 7:55 a.m.

My daughter’s faculty holds 400 youngsters. You are not allowed to stroll your youngster to their classroom however somewhat drop them off on the door and allow them to go. By no means thoughts the exits on the finish of every corridor and the way straightforward it might be for somebody to intercept them and say, “Hey, come with me, sweetheart.” We have spoken extensively to our baby about stranger hazard and what she ought to do; nevertheless, my daughter’s constant response — “Kick them in the penis!” — would definitely work as properly. It is a positive stability between scaring your youngster and never scaring them an excessive amount of.

When I assume again to that day, I could not inform you what uniform she was sporting or how her tangled hair was styled. I keep in mind being in a rush and virtually dashing her out the door so I might drink my rattling espresso in peace and begin my day. What number of days had I rushed her out the door? What number of days had I given her a fast kiss and a hug as an alternative of actually consuming her in?

That day, I took a midday scorching yoga class on the opposite aspect of city. When I emerged after 1 p.m., sweaty and relaxed, I noticed that I had a missed name from an area quantity. When I listened to the voicemail, my coronary heart out of the blue sank into my abdomen. An automatic message from my daughter’s faculty started to play. It advised me in what appeared like sluggish movement that my 5-year-old was absent that day.

I sat within the automotive, telephone clutched in my sweaty palms, and replayed the message. Absent. I had that singular thought that oldsters who’ve misplaced youngsters should assume: that is actually occurring. My coronary heart started to pound so violently, I feared imminent dying from a coronary heart assault. How might my daughter be absent? My husband dropped her off that very morning at 7:55 a.m. I checked the clock. It was now near 1:15 p.m. They’d waited this lengthy to let me know?

I calculated how lengthy a kidnapper must get away with my daughter. How far they’d be, how nearly unimaginable it will be discover her. I as soon as learn a statistic that in case you do not get well the kid within the first 5 hours, they are not coming again once more. It had already been 5 hours. Would I actually by no means see my daughter once more?

I frantically referred to as the quantity again however could not get a human on the telephone. I dialed my husband’s cell time and again till he answered in a muffled tone to let me know he was in a gathering. When he answered, I screamed that our daughter was absent from faculty. She wasn’t there! She was lacking! I informed him to satisfy me on the faculty earlier than hanging up and frantically calling my daughter’s faculty whereas rushing like a bat out of hell to get throughout city.

Horrid ideas consumed me. She’s gone. You will by no means see her once more. Did you inform her you liked her this morning? Why did you throw her gingerbread man out the window when she was throwing a tantrum? What’s she sporting? Did you deliver this on your self by writing a few kidnapping? God, I love her. I love her greater than something in the entire world and I’ll by no means lose my mood once more in case you simply deliver her again to me.

In Not Her Daughter, 5-year-old Emma Grace Townsend is kidnapped by profitable entrepreneur Sarah Walker. Sarah is sort (however a bit batsh*t loopy to take another person’s baby). Emma’s actual mom, Amy, is gruff, imply, and bodily and verbally abusive. She’s drained. She’s not likely current together with her baby. As I squeezed the steering wheel and waited for somebody to select up, I questioned which mom I was extra like: Amy or Sarah?

I considered each dangerous factor I’d ever stated to my daughter; how typically this candy little angel of mine pushes me to the brink of madness. How our youngsters see the ugliest elements of us but in addition probably the most lovely. Which one was I this morning? Which one would she keep in mind?

Somebody at her faculty lastly answered, and I frantically relayed that I’d simply acquired a name that our daughter wasn’t at college. The lady had the audacity to place me on maintain. These moments have been probably the most excruciating of my complete life. She’s there. She’s not there. She’s lacking. She’s effective. Lastly, the lady got here again on and stated, “I’m so sorry . . . ” and I keep in mind virtually blacking out earlier than she accomplished the remainder of her sentence. “She’s in class. I’m looking right at her,” she stated. I could not consider it. “Are you sure it’s her?” I answered. “Let me talk to her!” “It’s her. I’m sure.”

I considered each dangerous factor I’d ever stated to my daughter; how typically this candy little angel of mine pushes me to the brink of madness. How our youngsters see the ugliest elements of us, but in addition probably the most lovely. Which one was I this morning? Which one would she keep in mind?

I wouldn’t consider my daughter was actually there till my husband and I laid eyes on her. Till we crushed her candy little physique towards our chests and appeared into her beautiful eyes. We each pulled as much as the varsity and raced inside to get proof — and to resolve this ridiculous error. Apparently, when our baby had crouched right down to put away her lunchbox and backpack that morning, her instructor had someway marked her absent and by no means corrected it.

To say we have been relieved was an understatement. It was all a misunderstanding. The guarantees I made to by no means lose my mood once more instantly vanished as actual life set in. However then, months later, we misplaced her at Goal. One second she was there, calling to us each 5 seconds from the toy aisle as my husband and I checked out pillows within the adjoining aisle. The subsequent second, she was actually gone, and my husband and I have been operating and screaming by way of the shop to seek out her.

It is actually occurring this time, I keep in mind considering. You have been so busy taking a look at overpriced pillows, and now your daughter is gone.

A safety guard tried to calm me down. They locked the entrance doorways. Clients fanned out and appeared for her. This time I remembered what she was sporting. This time I remembered her hair.

The safety guard reviewed the tapes, however I was too afraid to ask what they have been in search of. Ten agonizing minutes of looking for our woman, and we nonetheless could not discover her. Lastly, a woman stated, “Is this her?” and pointed to my daughter on the entrance to the shop. I dropped to my knees and squeezed her so exhausting I might really feel her sturdy bones beneath her pores and skin. “I couldn’t find you,” she insisted.

I held her little physique and informed her she might by no means do this once more. That she knew the place we have been. That she was supposed to remain within the toy aisle! She began crying, and I understand now it was our mistake, not hers. Youngsters wander. That is what they do. There is no pillow on earth value taking your eyes off your youngsters for — even for a second. As a result of a second is all it takes.

After two scary occasions, I do not rush her out the door anymore. I memorize her ever-changing face, her smile, her goofy everlasting tooth which might be twice the dimensions of her child tooth. I drink her in.

Whereas these treacherous moments when I thought she was gone cannot be undone, I’m studying to savor the second. To place down the telephone. To concentrate to my daughter, to like my daughter, to recollect my daughter earlier than she’s grown and the fears and joys of childhood are nothing however a reminiscence.

Rea Frey is an writer and journalist who has appeared on Speak of the City, As we speak in Nashville, WGN, and Fox. Her debut novel, Not Her Daughter, was launched by St. Martins Press in August 2018 and has been optioned for movie. When not studying, writing, or consuming, you will discover Rea together with her household, touring, or doing handstands. To study extra, go to


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