I have written this story so many times in my head and have been much too scared to share it. I have never been one to talk about this experience with others because for some reason, I have felt so embarrassed and almost ashamed. I have always tried to erase it and pretend it never happened. I thought that maybe if I didn’t talk about it, it would just disappear. But it hasn’t… and it never will. I want to share with you my story of being a kidnapping survivor.
In July the day after Independence day, my brother, sister, older cousin and I all decided to go for a bike ride. This was the same bike ride we had done hundreds of times, down the street surrounded by fields and dairy farms. Being a little girl at the time, I was much smaller than my playmates and much slower on a bike. I was the tag-along little sister that nobody wanted to wait for. When I asked if I could tag-along yet again, my mom told me no, but I was determined to go. I got on my bike and told our mini bike gang I was allowed to go. We waited for a red car to pass and slowly turn the corner and we were off. We took off down the road on our bikes and it didn’t take long before the bigger kids were telling me to “hurry up” and “pedal faster”. My little legs were trying so hard to keep up. Not far into our bike ride, one of the kid’s chains came off the bike. The whole crew stopped to investigate the damage and get the bike up and going again. This was my chance! I was finally going to be able to get ahead of them. I remember thinking in my mind “Man I’ll show you! I can go fast!” I then pedaled my tiny bike as fast as I could and basked in victory as they ate my dust. I felt so good about myself. I knew I wasn’t going to be in the lead for long with the bigger kids easily able to catch up later. I wasn’t going to let that get me down though, this was my time to shine!
Slowly around the corner turned the same red car from before. The driver rolled down his window and stopped at my siblings and tried to talk to them, and ask my sister for her name. Having two boys there to protect my sister, they quickly scared this man off and gave their meanest boy growl they could muster. They got him to leave them alone, until they looked off in the distance and saw little sister pedaling off on her own. Their hearts sunk and they screamed at me, yelling my name to stop!
I could hear them calling my names in the background as I pedaled away and I just ignored it and kept pedaling. I thought that they were playing a game with me to get me to stop so they could pass me. That’s all that was on my mind as a little girl was games and winning and being ahead.
Slowly the red car pulled up beside me as I peddled my bike. I could hear him saying things to me, telling me to stop, telling me he had candy, telling me there was a puppy on his lap he wanted me to see. He was convincing as he did motions with his arms and made puppy noises, acting like the puppy was going to jump out of his lap, but was there really a cute puppy in his car? I could feel something was wrong. I was so confused. I had never been alone and had someone approach me. I stayed on my bike and slowed down a little bit while he kept saying and doing everything he could to get me to come closer to the car. I don’t know why, but I stopped my bike. I distinctively remember keeping my feet firmly planted on the ground. I was confused and moved my head forward ever so slightly to try to understand what was going on, when without any hesitation, his strong hand reached out of the car window. He grabbed me behind my neck and flung me forward. Now that I was closer, he grabbed me with both hands around the neck in a choke-hold, pulled my whole body off of my bike and through the window of his car, and sat me down in the passenger seat. In an instant, the car was going 90 mph. I had been kidnapped.
My oldest sister was sitting on the front porch painting her toe nails and could tell something was wrong. Although she didn’t see what happen, she saw that car drive by a couple times and just felt weird. My siblings ran back screaming “Candice has been kidnapped!!” She ran inside screaming to call the police. My dad anxiously ran to our minivan to drive after any piece of hope he had.
I never fully understood how horrible this situation was for me until I have had kids of my own. I can’t imaging how terrified I would be if I saw someone pull my daughter through their car window. I can’t imagine the feeling of knowing that you might never get her back again. The feeling of everything being taken away from you. The feeling of someone else being able to do anything to your sweet little girl. The feeling of begging for mercy, because I know every single one of us mothers would do anything to get that child back, no matter what it took.
I now fully understand why my dad got in the minivan to chase after anything he could. I now fully understand why my mother sobbed in the hallway at my elementary school after dropping me off on my first day of school, because this day could have been taken from her. I now understand why my family would sit around my bed and watch me sleep, because they could have had an empty bed instead.
When I was in that car, I did everything I could to make sure he wasn’t taking me to a second location. I put my hands in fists and I hit his arm with everything I had in me, screaming as loud as I could. His hands were so strong I felt like I was doing nothing as he was attacking me. I didn’t care, I just kept hitting and screaming. He then started yelling at me to stop. Louder and louder he yelled when he finally said “If you stop screaming, I will let you go.” He acted like he was going to pull over, but I didn’t stop screaming and hitting so he kept driving. He said “STOP screaming and I will let you go.” I instantly stopped because I could tell he wanted me out. He then pulled the car over and told me to get out. I was frantic and couldn’t get out, He then leaned over me and opened the door and I fell out. I stood there in shock as I watched his car drive away in the distance. That was the last of this “stranger” I ever saw. No captured criminal. No security. No closure.
I started running back to my house as fast as I could crying the whole way. I saw my families maroon mini van turn the corner towards me. I ran even faster towards the van with tears streaming down my cheeks. I will never forget when I looked into my dad’s eyes when they opened the door. I could see a feeling of relief and love. My sister grabbed me and hugged me in the car and we cried all the way to our house. Now as a mother, I truly know how much love my dad had in his eyes. When I was in that mini van I noticed that my bike was in the back seat, and I thought how strange it was that my dad took the time to stop and pick up the bike. I later learned that he felt so strongly to stop and get my bike that was laying on the side of the road. I now know that if he didn’t stop to get that bike then my kidnapper would have seen him in the rear view mirror and probably wouldn’t have let me go. He probably would have panicked and kept driving. What a miracle that was. It would have been easy for him to make a clean getaway with me in the car, but he let me go? I know that someone else was in that car protecting me.
My family and I all used to be so scared at night. We would sleep in the same room together every night after I was brought back, until one night my dad stood up crying and said that our family would not be defeated. This man was not going to win. We would not be victims, we would be survivors! He then made us all go to our own bed that night and not live in fear anymore.
Now as I’m older and I share my story I have so many people say to me “Oh that’s sad. I’m so glad I don’t have to worry about that in my neighborhood.” or “We live in a safe community, that would never happen to us.” or “I don’ t have to worry about my kids, they would never talk to strangers.” This is so hard for me when people tell me this, because: 1. We are never completely safe. So many times we send our kids off with older siblings in their “safe neighborhood” but we are never guaranteed safety. I just want to shake these people that say this to me and make them realize that we thought we lived in a safe neighborhood. In fact I bet the neighborhood I was kidnapped in was safer than theirs. I want mothers to realize that the road I was taken on was called the “farm road” and on one side of the road it was a pasture of horses, and fields of corn. On the other side was a dairy farm, and an alfalfa field where my dad would bail hay. We were in the middle of nowhere. What is considered a “safe neighborhood?” It doesn’t exist, because when you are so desperate in your life that you consider to take a child, you don’t turn around because that neighborhood is way too safe. 2. Did you not hear the part where I was on my bike and he picked me up off of it and took me? I didn’t run up to his car and ask to hold the imaginary puppy and give him a high five. Trust me, if I could go back, I wish I could have changed anything to not get taken. When we are in the wrong place at the wrong time, things happen that we cannot control.
I truly hope that this man went home and changed his life around. He can be forgiven and return to a happy life if he fights like I did. We all have times in our life where we have been “Victims”. Your battle may be different from mine, but we can fight and we can win and we can become a survivor.
I hope that by sharing my story that this will help you to evaluate your life in how you protect your children. I hope it helps you to hold your little ones tighter and know that you need to live in the moment with them, because we will have hard moments that you will have to face. Mother’s also need to know that things happen and I have never once looked backed and blamed my parent’s for this. Things happen for a reason, and I will probably never know the reason. I hope I can have a reason and if it helps one person’s life than I would go through it again.
I have always referred to my self as a kidnapping victim, but that is not the case. I am a fighter and a survivor.