Janet Greer can remember with devastating clarity the day that her 3-year-old daughter, Sarah "Dawsha" Elgohary, was supposed to return from a weekend visit with her father. And when Sarah didn't show, she remembers the exact moment when she realized the child's father, Greer's Egyptian ex-boyfriend, had stolen the child away from her.
"Right then, I knew my life was over. I knew he had her. I fell down on the ground. I fell down, because I knew she was gone," Greer told "Good Morning America" before beginning to cry uncontrollably, just as she had that day. Greer's ex-boyfriend, Magdy Elgohary, had, without a word, taken the girl to live in Egypt.
That terrifying day was March 23, 1997. In the 12 years since Sarah was taken, Greer has been fighting doggedly to be reunited with her little girl who, aside from a grainy cell phone video, she has not seen since she was a toddler.
To get her daughter back, Greer has spent all her money. She has taken multiple trips to Egypt, including a teasing visit to outside the apartment where she believed Dowsha lived. An Egyptian court even agreed that Greer should have custody of the child.
But still, she can't get to her daughter and has weathered for more than a decade a frustrated fury few can understand.
"It's a huge void in my life. My heart has been ripped out, and it's walking around in Africa somewhere, and I want to see my daughter," Greer told "Good Morning America," breaking down in tears once again.
In her latest bid for compassion and international cooperation, Greer said she is pleading to first lady Michelle Obama and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's wife, Suzanne, to help resolve her struggle.
"Can you help me see my daughter? I have to, before I die, I have to see my daughter," Greer said of her planned plea. "They're both mothers, and I need to see my daughter before I die."
A 'Miracle' Birth, A Nightmare Brewing
To Greer, daughter Sarah's birth was nothing short of a miracle.
"That was the best day of my life, when I heard I was pregnant with her," she said. "I just couldn't believe it. I just couldn't believe it."
At 40 years old, Greer didn't believe she could get pregnant, but then Sarah was born in Honolulu to Greer and then-boyfriend, Egyptian cabdriver Magdy Elgohary.
Soon, however, Greer said things started to take a troubling turn.
Mother's Greatest Fear Realized
"As time went on, [Elgohary] got more abusive. He got more controlling," she said.
When the couple split, Greer sought sole custody of Sarah, but a judge refused. After that, Greer begged the court to not allow Elgohary unsupervised visits.
"I said 'I don't want to be looking for my daughter in Cairo,'" Greer said.
When her worst fear was realized on that fateful day in 1997, Greer felt her life change, and Sarah and Elgohary were never seen in the United States again.
Authorities later confirmed that Elgohary had gone to Egypt. Greer chased down every lead as best she could, but American authorities told her there was little they could do. International law requires countries to send abducted children home, but like 3,000 other abducted American children currently living in other countries, Greer's daughter is at the mercy of foreign authorities.
The Egyptian government granted Greer custody of Sarah, but the ruling has never been enforced.
On her last visit, with the help of the U.S. Embassy, Greer made it to the apartment building where she believed Sarah lived, but authorities would not let her enter out of fear for Greer's safety.
"I just need to see her eyes. I need to talk to her, and I need her not to be scared," Greer said. "The hardest thing is getting on the plane and leaving again. Looking down and [seeing] she is not with me on that airplane again."
An Unlikely Ally
Greer has found at least one ally in her longstanding battle. Zagloul Ayad is an Egyptian investigative journalist who has taken her cause up as his own.
"I think she is a person with a great heart, and she has a great passion for her child," Ayad said. "There is a lot of red tape to go through."
With Ayad's help and her appeals to the leading ladies of the United States and Egypt, Greer told "GMA she hoped to get her daughter back, to try to make up so much of the time that has been lost.
She has kept every one of Sarah's toys but cannot bear to look at them. Her little girl may not even speak English anymore, she said.
"I didn't see the baby teeth come out. I didn't see the first day of school. I didn't do Mother's Day. Nothing, nothing at all," she said. "He took that all from me, and he robbed it from her too. He robbed her of her mother."