May 24, 2001 -- Before she could scream, a man's hands were covering her mouth. And before she could run, she was thrown inside his car, stuffed between the dashboard and the front seat, her ankles shackled to the gearshift.
Midsi Sanchez, 8, was racing home from her Vallejo, Calif., school last Aug. 12, with her little brother trailing a block behind, when she was abducted.
The man who snatched her covered her with a blanket and drove her around for hours. He told her that if she did not keep quiet, she would be killed.
For the next day and a half, the abductor taunted the little girl, eating in front of her but giving the child nothing. Instead of water, he forced Midsi to drink beer and wine.
She Saw a Chance, and Took It
Midsi says she thought she would die. But when the abductor left the car, leaving his keys behind, she tried one key after another until she she was able to unlock the shackles.
With her abductor only a few feet away, she leaped out of the car and ran for her life. She spotted a truck driver, who slowed to a stop, and Midsi literally dived through his window to safety.
The truck driver, Carl Tafua, called in the abductor's license plate number, and 39-year-old Curtis Dean Anderson was arrested. Last month, Anderson was convicted in Midsi's abduction, and police are now investigating him in connection with the abductions of four other missing girls.
On Wednesday, Midsi was given a medal for her extraordinary courage by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. It was the organization's first-ever Courage Award, honoring Midsi for her ability to free herself after two days in captivity.