The abduction of Amber Hagerman in Arlington was followed by a sad tableau that has become familiar in modern America: loved ones of the girl appeared on television to beg for her safe return.
"Please don't hurt my baby," the children's mother cried. "She's just an innocent child. Please, please bring her home safe. Please."
The media interviewed the lone witness, Jim Kevil, who had phoned 911 after hearing Amber's screams.
"I saw her riding up and down [the vacant lot]," he told reporters. "She was by herself. I saw this pickup. He pulled up, jumped out and grabbed her...When she screamed, I figured the police ought to know about it, so I called them. I wish I had known more. I done all I could do."
Kevil described the man as "not big, but very fast." He was white or Hispanic, and his truck was dark. But he was too far to give much more detail.
Police theorized it was a stranger abduction.
In a typical year, 750,000 American children are reported missing, according to the National Center for Missing & Exploited children. The vast majority are runaways or family abductions.
Roughly 100 stranger abductions of children are reported each yearone every three or four days, on average. But stranger abductions are in the most troubling category of missing children because nine out of 10 victims are female, half are sexually assaulted, and three out of four are killed within three hours.
In those cases, every moment following an abduction is crucial.