Oftentimes when we hear stories of kidnappings, we’re hearing about the ones that end badly. People who are never seen again or who are found too late.
But 15 years ago, Time Magazine named a defiant and strong-willed little girl from Philadelphia its Person of the Week, with a strong reminder that “not all abductions end in tears.”
It was the summer of 2002. Two men abducted then-7-year-old Erica Pratt as she played on the sidewalk in front of her family’s home in Philadelphia. They drove her to an abandoned building about 10 miles away, gagged her, bound her arms and legs with duct tape and locked her in the basement.
They’d heard – wrongly, as it turns out – that her family, who lived in a run-down and drug-infested area of Philadelphia, had received a significant amount of money after Erica’s uncle died, and called in a $150,000 ransom to her grandmother.
Meanwhile, this plucky little girl spent the next 24 hours gnawing at the tape until she was free, then busted through a window and called for help.
Two young boys who were playing outside heard her desperate cries, and they worked together to pull her out of the basement. Several days later, her abductors were identified and sentenced on charges of kidnapping, robbery, and aggravated assault.
As her family and friends gathered to celebrate her safe return, young Erica’s bravery during the ordeal caught the attention of the nation.
“For parents wondering if it’s safe to let their kids even leave the living room without supervision, the most reassuring part of Erica’s story is that, faced with a situation in which many adults would panic, she kept her head and saved herself. In the end, maybe the best defense you can give your kids is not a blind fear of strangers but rather instilling self-assurance and presence of mind.”
Admiration for her perseverance continued through the following year when then-U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft presented her with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s National Courage Award.
“It amazes me that a child of only seven has the composure to take the time to gnaw her way out of the duct tape and get out,” said one officer who was involved with the case.
“I have 21 years in the police department, and I have never seen this kind of heroic act of bravery committed by a 7-year-old,” agreed another.
Watch the accolades roll in below, and share to spread happiness that this was not one of those cases with a sad ending!