I have dealt with four, possibly five actual circumstances of kidnappings in my life. All of them directly affected me. I remember each circumstance like it was yesterday. My earliest one is what I will talk about here.
I was approximately 7 maybe 8 years old. My sister was still in diapers. We were at the school park which was kiddy corner from our home at the time. It was a warm summer day and we were playing on the swings. My sister wanted to go to the merry-go-round, so we did, eventually. I never really wanted to go on it, I hated pushing and swings were far more fun.
Suddenly the car pulled up. Something told me to watch the man closely. I remember sitting on the swings just staring at him. He was clear across the school yard from me and my sister. I still remember the car. It was rusty and mustard yellow. It was a big 70’s car, perhaps an Impala or Thunderbird.
The man is gazing in the windows of the school and I just sat there, keeping an eye on him and my sister. I told her to stay close to me. I knew he “felt” weird. I swung higher. The man started to approach us. I remember his brown curly hair which was cut in a mullet.
He sat on a swing next to me. I stopped my swing, stood up, and got onto another swing over. He is talking to me. I don’t do a very good job of answering. I shrug my shoulders a few times. My sister is next to me on her swing and he’s two swings down from me. I was in the middle of the two.
My sister wanted to go to the merry-go-round. The man asked me how to get into the school. He said he was the window washing man. I shrugged. He said he wanted to know where the back door was. I shrugged. He told me not to be afraid, that he was my friend. I jumped off the swing and told my sister to come to the merry-go-round and I would push her.
He asked me if I wanted him to push us. He got up and followed us. I picked up my pace. My sister was already there. He asked me where my parents were. My sister looked at him and said, “At home.” He asked me where home was. My sister pointed her finger toward the house, which he didn’t know was not visible from where we were at.
I felt the strange feeling was over me and immediately said, “My dad’s watching us.”
The man looked up. “I don’t see him.” He says. “Please don’t be scared of me, I’m really your friend. We can be the best of friends. Wanna come see my car?” My heart was racing.
I looked at his car which was across from the playground. I then glanced toward my house. The man reached his hand out to me. “Come on, we’re friends. I will take you and your sister with me. I will take you home so you don’t have to walk. I work at this school so you don’t have to be afraid. We are friends.”
I moved opposite of him so I could watch him. I told my sister we were going back to the swings. For some unknown reason (God) she obeyed me. She never left the merry-go-round willingly. The man smiled as he saw me grab my sisters hand and head toward the swings again. He followed. I gained a little distance and said the smartest thing in the world that a kid could say.
“Run as fast as you can home! Just run!” My sister again obeyed. She was in front of me with her chubby little legs pumping as fast as they would carry her. I looked back and the man wasn’t too far behind me. “Run faster!” This time I yelled it. “RUN! BETH RUN!” The noise of my yelling must have scared him. He turned around and ran to his car. I looked behind me and felt relief wash over my body after he quit chasing us.
We ran all the way home (which was not far at all). My dad must have heard our commotion because he met us at the door with a confused look on his face. “The man, the man! He wanted us in his car!” My dad grabbed us first and then called the police. I gave them the same story 30 years ago that I just told here. I will never forget that incident.
I think about that day from time-to-time, grateful that my parents taught me about strangers at a young age. I’ve told my kids that story since they were young. There are some things that are better left unsaid, but then there are some things that can actually save a life. Stranger danger is difficult to teach because not all bad guys do the same things. They don’t look a specific way or sound a specific way. We want them to fit a mold, but they truly don’t. The importance is teaching them to make a lot of noise and run especially if they feel uncomfortable. Teach them that strangers can be any type of person, but typically they seem to be pretty nice. Teach them to do the exact opposite of what a stranger says.
I’ve survived actually being kidnapped and this incident. I’ve witnessed my daughter’s attempted kidnapping, and somebody else’s attempted kidnapping. I’ve also witnessed my kids’ being recorded and preyed on by someone who was arrested for kidnapping. With all these dealings with kidnappings, this is the best information I can think of. It’s saved my life and a few other’s as well. My point, don’t underestimate the power of teaching ‘Stranger Danger’. It’s important.