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Families of abducted children find hope in Jaycee Dugard's discovery

Fourteen years have passed since Colleen Nick's 6-year-old daughter, Morgan, was abducted chasing fireflies after a baseball game.

It's been 20 years since Patrick Sessions' daughter Tiffany vanished while jogging near her University of Florida apartment.

Some might wonder whether this week's reunion of a stolen child and wounded family would further torment Nick and Sessions, whose own daughters remain missing.

Instead, the two feel a new glimmer of hope.

"It's hard to have hope after that amount of time," Sessions said. "This shows you this does exist. It kind of perks me up."

They are parents who started foundations in their children's honor, who gave up careers to search, and who developed guides for families about the dangers that lurk.

They celebrated Thursday's news and also called for the nation to open its eyes.

"This was a shot in the arm for America to know that this can happen," said Nick, an Arkansas mother. "It's really just an affirmation of what we say all the time. Missing children are out there. It's just a matter of finding them."

Jaycee Lee Dugard, now 29, was reunited with her family nearly two decades after she was snatched from a South Lake Tahoe street. Authorities say she was kept behind a series of fences, sheds and tents, even to give birth to her suspected abductor's children.

Sessions, who does a double-take whenever he sees anyone who looks like his daughter, said he was surprised at the "great news."

"It's hard to imagine a scenario that Tiffany is okay, but I would imagine the parents of (Dugard) felt the same way," Sessions said. "I don't think they ever expected to see their daughter again."

Yet, it happens. In March 2003 in Sandy, Utah, authorities found Elisabeth Smart, kidnapped and held nine months. Shawn Hornbeck, 11 when he vanished while riding his bike in Missouri, turned up more than four years later, in 2007.

In such stories, families find strength.

"Hope is really not a tragedy, it is an action," Nick said. "It's like fighting back every day, doing everything we can."

Nick, who serves as secretary on the board of directors for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, encourages everyone to take a look around. If something doesn't seem right, make a phone call. "If everybody would do that one thing, we would find every missing child," she said. "Every missing child would come home."

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report. Times staff writer Demorris Lee and news researcher John Martin contributed. Staff writer Dong-Phuong Nguyen can be reached at nguyen@sptimes.com or (813)909-4613.

Families of abducted children find hope in Jaycee Dugard's discovery 08/28/09 [Last modified: Friday, August 28, 2009 10:46pm]
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