June 10th 1991 began at first like just any other day. I woke up, ate breakfast, and headed out the door to walk to the bus stop. Luckily, I made it to school and arrived safely home that afternoon. Unfortunately, another little girl across town was not able to say the same thing. Her name was Jaycee Lee Duggard, and she was kidnapped as she attempted to walk to her own school bus that morning. She tells her story in A Stolen Life.
I remmber the first time I heard what had happened to her. I was almost finished with my Sophmore year at South Tahoe High School. Like Jaycee who was excited about an upcoming field trip to a water park, I was also looking forward to summer vacation. My daydreams of hanging out on the shores of Lake Tahoe with my friends were interrupted when the principal came over the loud speaker to inform us that a 5th grader had been abducted by a man and a woman on her way to the bus stop. They did not know where she was, or if they might strike again. We were given instructions to not walk home alone that afternoon.
I followed instructions and had one of my best friends, Michelle ride home from school with me that afternoon. That evening the story was on all of the news channels. We heard her name for the first time - she was Jaycee Lee Duggard, and she was 11 years old. She lived with her mom, step-father (who was a suspect up until the day she was found), and her half-sister. Our small town was in a state of shock. Lake Tahoe was not the type of place where people were afraid of one another. Most people didn't even lock their doors, and if they did, everyone knew that they had a key hidden under a fake rock. But after that day, everything changed. People become a little less trusting, parents began walking their children to the bus stops every day, not just the first day of school. And everywhere you turned you saw Jaycee's face, on a missing poster, and you just prayed that someday she would make it home alive. You hoped that all of those pink ribbons would make a difference, that somehow her kidnappers would return her to her family.
After so many years had gone by, I think most people began to think that maybe the unspeakable had happened, maybe she wasn't alive. I still remember the shock, relief, and sadness (for all that she had endured) I felt when one of my best friends texted me on August 27, 2009 at 5:30 in the morning. He had been there with me in Chemistry class when we had heard she was kidnapped, and it was he who sent me the news that Jaycee was alive. His text said "They found Jaycee Lee - alive! She walked into a Bay Area police station." I know that everyone who ever lived in Tahoe during those years felt the same way I did - a mixture of relief that she was alive and safe, but also so sad for all that she must have endured. Afterall, she had been found along with the two daughters she had given birth to while in captivity, daughters of her captor.
I knew that Jaycee had undergone terrible things, but that did not prepare me to read what those things were. I could not imagine a child having to endure what she did. As I read her story, I cried through her suffering, but also smiled because even throughout the time she was being held, she never lost her hope, her courage, or her ability to love her own daughters as much as her mother had loved her. I finished reading with the feeling that she would be ok - she is a survivor.