It’s been two years since that night. Two years and I still relive those feelings. To this day, if the phone rings during the night, my heart panics and I have trouble sleeping afterwards. It was all a prank. A prank call made most likely by some young boys that, for one night, had me living a nightmare.
My oldest daughter was 12. She went to a birthday party that resulted in a slumber party afterwards. The birthday girl went to a different school so there was a handful of my daughter’s best friends there and a handful of girls from the other school. This was a fantastic group of girls I was sending my daughter off with. All was well and I enjoyed getting pictures throughout the evening of the fun they were having celebrating her friend’s 13th birthday. I laid my head on my pillow that night and went soundly to sleep.
At 1:36am, my cell phone rang …
It said No Caller ID.
“Mommy, help me!! Help me Mommy, please help me. I’m so scared! Help me!” And then she hung up. I bolted up in bed. Confused. It took me a few seconds to think straight. Where is she? She’s at a slumber party. I knew that sound in her voice. I had heard it before when she’s woken during the night and called out for me, scared and not knowing where she is in the dark. The phone rang again …
“Help me, help me, Momma!! I’m on I-10. I’m so scared. Please come and get me!” Then she hangs up on me again. I jumped out of bed and tried to make sense out of what was happening. Thinking and trying to rationalize. I don’t understand. The phone rings again …
“Please, please help me!!!” She is yelling and crying and pleading for help. “I’m on I-10, I’m so scared.” I start to panic and ask question after question.
“Are you serious??? How did you get there? I don’t understand!! Is anyone with you?!!” Finally, she says Sarah is with her. I don’t know a Sarah but thought maybe one of the girls at the party was Sarah. I demand to speak to Sarah, still trying to make sense of what on earth is going on. Another voice gets on the phone and says hello and that voice sounded terrified. They hang up …
The images going through my head are horrifying. I picture my 12 year old child on the side of the interstate, lost in the dark. Is she naked? Has she been raped? I-10 goes in both directions. Is she east or is she west? How do I know what direction to go? Where do I begin? Were the girls being silly and snuck out of the house and let someone pick them up? That is unlike her, but there are little girls at the party that I don’t know. I quickly call the mom whose house she is at and get her voicemail. Then the phone rings again …
“Mommy, help me please! Come get me. I was kidnapped in a blue van. I’m on I-10. I’m so scared.” Hangs up. At this point, I am FREAKING out. I am shaking, nauseated, and yelling to my husband that our daughter is calling and saying she is on I-10, she has been kidnapped and she is begging me for help! They call me over and over 9 times. The phone rings again. This time my husband answers it.
“… it’s a joke. It’s all a joke.”
My husband hands me the phone, “They said it’s a joke.” At that point I am broken. I don’t believe it’s a joke. I get on the phone and the voice says, “It’s just a joke.” I ask to speak to different girls that are at the party so I can hear their voices and know it’s a joke, still believing it was my daughter I was talking to. I asked to speak to one girl specifically that I knew very well. Another voice gets on the phone …
“Hello?”… ” ‘Mary Grace’ is this you?”… “I don’t know a F’ing ‘Mary Grace’.”
The F word threw me. This little girl would never use the F word. These are not my daughter’s friends. My mind was swirling with confusion. I told them I was calling 911 because I don’t understand and I don’t know where my daughter is and if she is ok!! A small voice takes the phone and tells me his name and that he is 12 years old and it was all a prank. Crying and shaking, I gave him a piece of my mind in a mother’s voice you don’t want to hear. He quickly apologized, said “Yes Ma’am,” and hung up. I immediately called my daughter’s cell phone at 1:56am after 20 minutes of believing my child was somewhere in the dark, on I-10, alone, terrified … and God only knew what else. She answered. I could tell she had been sleeping. She had no idea what I was talking about. I cried and cried when I heard her voice and made her reassure me over and over that she was ok. She told me I was scaring her. My husband needed to hear her voice also. I laid awake all night crying. I hugged that baby so long the next morning and cried off and on all day.
A prank … it was all a prank. I had asked the prank caller if he knew my daughter. He said, “No ma’am, I don’t.” As my husband said, it was the perfect storm of events that she happened to be away that night at a friend’s house that she didn’t normally go to with a few girls in attendance that I didn’t know. Or was it? … I’ll never know if it was someone that knew my daughter and knew she was away. I’ll never know if someone that knows her could be that cruel. I’ll never know if the name he gave me was real. I’ll never understand how the voice sounded just like hers. I had no doubt. And my cell number … how would one have my cell number and perhaps knew I had a daughter … or did they? Was it all completely random and I just fed them what they were looking for? After all, they never once said my daughter’s name. I did not call the police that night. I had 3 sleeping children upstairs and a 12 year old safe and sound, surrounded by sleeping innocent little girls. I was emotionally drained and didn’t want to repeat it. I didn’t want to repeat it for a long time. I couldn’t. For 20 minutes, I was living a nightmare.
For the next year, the caller continued to try and prank me, randomly, once a month, skip a month, then “they’d” try again. No Caller ID would appear on my phone and I’d nervously answer. It was always something different. “Hello?”, “Is Kimberly there?”, “You must have the wrong number.”, “I NEED TO SPEAK TO KIMBERLY! I CAN’T FIND HER!” I’d slam the phone down. It’s them. And I would relive it all over again. Emotional trauma, I have no doubt. They got me and they got me good.
Since then I have read articles shared with me such as ‘It sounded like my child: the ‘virtual kidnappers’ scamming Americans.’ There are so many similarities in these articles that happened to me, but differences also. There seemed to be a scam where they record your child’s voice off of social media, make it sound like they are kidnapped, but try and extort money from you. In my case, there was no request for money … but her voice. It still haunts me.